Very disappointing news shared by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:

USA lifts ban on elephant trophy imports

In another twist in the trophy hunting debate, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced that it is withdrawing its ban on importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia with immediate effect. Instead, permits will now be granted to hunters on a ‘case-by-case basis’. A number of other decisions made previously under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are also being overturned.

The ban on importing trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia was put in place under the Obama Administration in 2014 as a measure to protect elephants, after evidence showed that hunts in these countries did not enhance conservation efforts. The current US Administration first tried to lift the ban in November 2017, but a subsequent global backlash forced President Trump to put the decision on hold, pending a further review.

Though USFWS remained tight-lipped on any formal decision, Trump indicated at the time that the ban would remain in place, calling trophy hunting a ‘horror show’ and the attempt to overturn the ban ‘terrible’.

Yet, just a few months later, here we are again, with the US Administration lifting the ban to allow imports, this time on a case-by-case basis – appointing itself as judge, jury and executioner to elephants.

This latest announcement comes as a disappointing u-turn and one that could lead to the killing of more innocent elephants by US hunters.


Influential Conservationist Killed

Sad news featured on BBC today:

Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, was found with a stab wound to his neck at home in the capital Nairobi on Sunday.
The former UN special envoy for rhino conservation was known for his undercover work establishing black-market prices.

An influential conservationist, Martin was fearless in his pursuit for truth and justice.  He traveled to a China, Laos, Vietnam, and other locations posing as a black market dealer, taking secret photographs of ivory whilst in the presence of gang members.  He was instrumental in providing accurate reports of the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade to the UN and conservation groups, and gets a lot of credit for pushing China to ban ivory.

A US citizen, he first went to Kenya in the 1970s to begin his reports to combat the rise of ivory trading.  He died there in his home, likely the unfortunate victim of robbery rather than a premeditated revenge killing.

Tributes from groups like Save the Elephants have been released in the press and on social media.





Zimbabwe bans elephant trade

Zimbabwe has been featured in this blog for bad news in the past, such as for selling elephants into captivity.

I’m happy to start 2018 with great news.  The new president Emmerson Mnangagwa is concerned about endangered species.  He is banning the trade of elephants and other endangered animals.

He also wants to devote more government funds and focus to protecting the environment.  Also very encouraging: he hopes to have women be leaders in conservation.  So far, he seems to be walking the walk, and not just giving nice speeches.  His daughter is currently participating in the Akashinga project, a woman-run part of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation.

(My photo below)




Chinese ban ivory

Some good news to start 2018: Preliminary studies are showing the ban on ivory in China is working well.

From the BBC:

“Wildlife campaigners believe 30,000 African elephants are killed by poachers every year.
State media said there had already been a 65% decline in the price of raw ivory over the past year.
There had also been an 80% decline in seizures of ivory entering China, said Xinhua.
The ban was announced last year and came into effect on Sunday, the last day of 2017.”


Happy New Year!

Riding an elephant

With the new year coming, I’m dreaming of travel.  Maybe you are too?  But, if riding an elephant was on your bucket list, you might want to think twice:

Daniel Turner, Associate Director for Tourism at Born Free told the BBC:

While some may consider riding on top of the largest land mammal to be a cultural experience that holds an air of romance, few recognise that this practice actually significantly compromises the welfare of these magnificent animals and potentially places people at risk.
Riding or interacting with captive elephants, swimming with dolphins, walking with lions, or cuddling a tiger cub for a photo – these are just some of the many worrying tourism excursions and activities involving animals. All can impact on the welfare of the animals involved, and risk people’s safety.

What can you do instead?  Visit a sanctuary, where often you can interact with the elephants (feeding them, helping with bath time) yet know that they have plenty of time with their peers and in natural surroundings.

Here are some reputable ones I’ve heard about:

The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, Thailand

Elephant Nature Park, Thailand and Cambodia

Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, Thailand

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kenya

The Elephant Sanctuary, South Africa (3 locations)

Elephant Rehabilitation Center in Agastyarvanam Biological Park, India

Millennium Elephant Foundation, Sri Lanka

YouTube: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya





Jumbo the Elephant

A recent blurb in The Telegraph features a review of a documentary:

One could easily have imagined Attenborough and the Giant Elephant (BBC One), the bittersweet tale of the world’s first animal superstar – Jumbo the elephant, London Zoo’s foremost attraction in Victorian times – filling a prime-time slot in the Christmas or Boxing Day schedules. But perhaps it was deemed too sad. Too liable to dial down Yuletide high spirits with its archaeological examination of unintentional animal cruelty and the appalling ignorance of generations past.

I had never heard of Jumbo, but his story is rather tragic.  He was a superstar attraction, the first time many had ever seen an elephant.  He was beloved by children on both sides of the Atlantic.  

However, he was severely mistreated.  He was forced to perform and did not receive proper medical care.  His keeper then gave him alcohol to depress his violent outbursts.  He ended up dying in a horrid fashion – being hit in a train crash.

The only comfort is that perhaps Jumbo planted the early seeds of animal rights in people’s minds.  Seeing a live elephant made some care more about their welfare, and zoos have made positive changes since that time.  Many circuses have gone out of business or have stopped using animals in their shows.




Giving Tuesday

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s nice to have a day dedicated to charitable giving.  Each year in November, I use the tip money I receive through my job to donate to a cause that is meaningful to me and receives good reviews.

This year I chose the Guide Dog Foundation and Vet Dogs.  It is located in my home state, and I have bought holiday cards from them in the past.  They have sent me a quarterly newsletter and I have been so impressed by their dedication to the animals and their human companions.

Video: VetDogs, youtube

Last year I gave to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and I continue to foster an elephant there.  It is an amazing organization in Kenya, dedicated to rescuing elephants (and rhinos and giraffes).

Video: DSWT, youtube