US president Donald Trump caused controversy earlier this week when he announced the lift of the ban on elephant trophies.

Perhaps prompted by the waves of criticism the announcement received, Trump has today announced that he is putting that decision "on hold".

"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," he tweeted.

His initial reverse on the ban was widely criticised.

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Popular TV show host Ellen DeGeneres launched the #BeKindToElephants Twitter campaign to raise awareness for the plight of this endangered species.

She asked Twitter users to retweet her original message, using the hashtag, and promised a donation to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for every retweet.

She was retweeted more than 165,000 times.

The world's largest land mammal, the African elephant, has been classified as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act since 1979.

President Donald Trump's two adult sons are avid trophy hunters. 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.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, recently installed the arcade game "Big Buck Hunter Pro" in the employee cafeteria at the agency's Washington headquarters, a move he said would promote wildlife and habitat conservation. In June, the department removed longstanding protections for grizzly bears near Yellowstone National Park, a step to potentially allow them to be hunted.

- Additional reporting by AP