BY ALICIA COHN – 

President Trump on Friday night said he plans to hold until further review his administration’s decision to allow elephant trophies being imported into the United States.

“Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts,” he tweeted. “Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement that he and Trump “talked and both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical.”

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“As a result, in a manner compliant with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations, the issuing of permits is being put on hold as the decision is being reviewed,” he said.

Trump’s decision to review the decision follows intense criticism from some conservationists, many high-profile celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, and some members of the GOP party.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said on Thursday it had determined a ban was no longer necessary on the import of parts of elephants hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia, a reversal of the policy under the Obama administration.

The Obama administration banned trophy imports because authorities believed it harmed the survival of the species.

The FWS had reaffirmed its decision to reverse the ban shortly before Trump’s tweet on Friday night, calling the decision part of “a robust United States conservation strategy.”

“After more than two years of extensive assessments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that importing limited numbers of hunted elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia into the United States will help protect wild elephants for future generations,” the FWS statement said.

“Well-managed hunting programs provide huge economic incentives across Africa to conserve some of the planet’s most iconic and beloved species,” it continued.

The agency was moving forward with the decision, having published the required Federal Register notice on the change in regulation on Friday.

Conservation groups cheered Trump late Friday for holding off on the decision.

“It’s great that public outrage has forced Trump to reconsider this despicable decision, but it takes more than a tweet to stop trophy hunters from slaughtering elephants and lions,” Tanya Sanerib, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “We need immediate federal action to reverse these policies and protect these amazing animals.”

“Grateful to President Trump for reassessing elephant and lion trophy hunting imports. This is the kind of trade we don’t need,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States.

– Timothy Cama contributed

Updated: 9:40 p.m.

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