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I-Team: Local woman shares mission to save elephants and stop poaching

LAS VEGAS - A recent decision by the Trump administration to allow the import of elephant trophies into the United States has caused some controversy. But one group in southern Nevada has a mission to save the elephants.

DISCLAIMER: Some of the photos used in this report may be disturbing.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, African elephants are considered to be a threatened species.  But the same agency is now allowing the import of elephant parts.

"Elephants have been in decline for many years now," Stacy James of Dazzle Africa said.

James is the founder of Dazzle Africa which raises money to help save elephants and organizes safari trips to see them, but now, she has another tool for her cause: Senate Bill 194 which went into effect on Jan. 1st.

Senat Bill 194 "doesn't allow the sales of 15 different species -- one being any part of an elephant," said James. 

To explain things, this means if a store is selling a product, for example, that is made from any part of an elephant, the business could be fined.

The 8 News NOW I-Team did some digging and learned that although SB 194 is law, there still may be some stores in southern Nevada that may be selling products like ivory.
 
"Nevadans spoke up and said that they did not want to allow the sales of species that are vulnerable like elephants, so we are just very disappointed that the shift has happened in the U.S., "James said. 

And for many, the shift may be confusing.  Here's why: By 2015, the Obama administration banned the import of elephant parts.  In Nov. 2017, President Donald Trump referred to the trophy hunting of elephants in a tweet as a horror show.
But in March 2018, the Trump administration reversed the ban, saying permits would be reviewed on a case by case basis.

"President Trump's position on trophy hunting remains the same," said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary.  "The Fish and Wildlife's announcement is a response to a court decision impacting how trophy import applications are reviewed." 

The decision is a controversial one. 

Earlier this week, actor Jim Carrey showed his opposition to hunting elephants by tweeting a photo of a painting showing Trump's sons impaled by elephant tusks.

In 2012, TMZ published a photo of Donald Trump Jr. with his trophy holding a tail next to a hunted elephant that had been killed.

According to the great elephant census released in 2016, the population of African elephants declined by 30-percent in just seven years.  The decline of 8-percent a year was due to poaching.

James says rather than hunting them, and merely viewing the elephants creates a better impact in communities and generates tourism dollars.

"For us, it's a treat to be able to go there and see these incredible animals in the wild," James said. 

James says it all started in Zambia; that's where she was inspired to take up the cause to try to save the species in decline.

Dazzle Africa has an upcoming event on April 12th. Learn more by going here.