"Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation", a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement.
The group, which does not oppose all hunting, is considering bringing legal action to block the policy change, Pepper said. For example, insurgent groups like Al-Shabab, the Lord's Resistance Army and Boko Haram buy weapons by handing in elephant tusks.
The Trump administration announced it will allow the trophies of legally hunted elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia to be imported to the US, reversing an Obama-era ban. A photo of Donald Trump Jr. holding a knife and the bloody severed tail of an elephant he reportedly killed in Zimbabwe in 2011 has sparked outrage among animal rights activists.
"These positive findings for Zimbabwe and Zambia demonstrate that the Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes that hunting is beneficial to wildlife and that these range countries know how to manage their elephant populations", said SCI President Paul Babaz.
Savanna elephant populations declined by 30 percent across 18 countries in Africa from 2007 to 2014, according to the Great Elephant Census published past year, which put their remaining numbers at just over 350,000.
A blog post by Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of The Humane Society, criticized the decision, calling it "a venal and nefarious, pay-to-slay arrangement that Zimbabwe has set up with the trophy hunting industry".
Under the Obama administration, the FWS decided in 2015 that importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe would "not enhance the survival of the species".
"What kind of message does it send to say to the world that poor Africans who are struggling to survive can not kill elephants in order to use or sell their parts to make a living, but that it's just fine for rich Americans to slay the beasts for their tusks to keep as trophies?"
Shaul Schwarz, the co-director of the film, says that the debate over hunting big-game is far more complicated than those in the United States would think. "This is a setback in the fight to ban all illegal wildlife trade".
In 2016, 30 elephants were allowed to be killed there as trophies but the government reported that only 12 males were killed, according to the notice. For forest elephants, the population declined by an estimated 62 percent between 2002 and 2011.
It's a reversal of yet another Obama administration policy.
Elephants graze inside Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, August 1, 2015.
Zimbabwe is now in a leadership crisis, after the military seized power this week and placed President Robert Mugabe under house arrest.