US President Donald Trump called elephant hunting a "horror show" and indicated that he will block imports of elephant trophies from two African nations despite his administration's earlier approval of the practice.
On Friday, Trump had temporary halted the decision of the US Fish and Wildlife Services to lift ban on import of trophies of elephants from Zambia and Zimbabwe into the US.
"Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal," Trump said in a tweet late last night.
Trump's decision to review the Obama-era policy received a wave of criticism from some conservationists, Republican lawmakers and many celebrities.
The Obama administration banned such imports because authorities believed trophy hunting harmed the survival of elephants.
Last week, the US Fish and Wildlife Services said after more than two years of extensive assessments, it has determined that importing limited numbers of hunted elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia into the US will help protect wild elephants for future generations.
The decision was part of a robust US conservation strategy that seeks to eliminate poaching and associated wildlife trafficking while using legal, managed hunting programmes to support wildlife and habitat conservation in range countries.
Well-managed hunting programmes provide huge economic incentives across Africa to conserve some of the planet's most iconic and beloved species, it said.
Noting that the US holds range of countries to high standards that demonstrate hunting and management programmes benefit the conservation of species in the wild, the service said after providing copious data and evidence, Zimbabwe and Zambia have shown that allowing limited numbers of elephants to be legally taken in their countries will provide much- needed conservation dollars to preserve habitat and protect wild herds from criminal poaching gangs.
The Center for Biological Diversity had described this as a "horrific news" and said that "it is shocking" that Zinke is lifting the trophy ban during a military coup.
The same night, Trump announced that he had temporarily halted the decision.
"Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!" Trump said in tweet late last night.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke supported Trump's decision.
"President Trump and I have talked and both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical," he said in a statement.
"As a result, in a manner complaint with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, the issuing of permits is being put on hold as the decision is being reviewed," Zinke said after the Trump administration was criticised for its decision earlier in the day.