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.


Rhinos in trouble

IMG_5864There are only three Northern white rhinos left in the world, and sadly, the one male is gravely ill.  He is forty-five years old and is facing death due to natural causes.  The hope of a naturally conceived rhino is now slim to none, so scientists are trying to see if in-vitro fertilization is an option or if cross-breeding with another species of rhino is possible.  The loss of the northern white rhino will follow the loss of the western black rhino, which became extinct seven years ago.

The three remaining northern white rhinos are under heavy armed protection at all times.  While Asia has made strides at reducing the demand for elephant ivory the past few years, rhino horn is still being sold in many open markets in countries like Vietnam.  Misinformation that rhino horn treats disease such as cancer has made prices soar.

All rhino species are in danger, and organizations such as Save the Rhino are doing the best they can to educate, inform, and raise awareness.  Some fundraising has been creative – for example, last year Tinder named the Northern white rhino male as the most eligible bachelor in the world.  But, rhinos do not share the same prestige as elephants (which have been featured in countless fables, children’s stories, art, religious imagery, etc), and it has been more difficult to get the public to rally to save rhinos or to open their wallets for the cause.

(photo taken at my zoo)



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.





Arctic Drilling

IMG_5453Photo: sea lion at my zoo

With the earthquake this morning (a 7.9 magnitude), I was reminded of yet another reason I oppose drilling in the Arctic.  The Trump administration is determined to open up this vast area for oil exploration and extraction.

Here are some reasons to oppose it:

1. Oil Spills

The US government itself estimates that there is a 75% chance of an oil spill in the Chukchi Sea if it is opened to offshore drilling.  Unlike the Gulf of Mexico spill, the remote location and ice will greatly complicate the clean up.  In fact, there is no proven method for cleaning an oil spill off an icy landscape.

2. Animals

An oil spill would be disasterous for wildlife.  But, development will hurt animals too.  197,000 caribou migrate to their calving grounds.  Migratory birds, sea lions, seals, wolves, polar bears, and more call this area home.  Building rigs requires building transport routes and human settlements, undoubtedly causing disruption.

3. Environmental impact everywhere

World scientists are trying to limit average global warming to 2 degrees C.  Drilling in the Arctic will make it  nearly impossible to meet the goal.  Rising sea levels will affect all areas, so if you’re living in Miami you should still care about the great white north.

4. Technology

I was shocked to see a few minutes of CNBC – the stock channel – and hearing them saying they were opposed to drilling in the Arctic and on US coastlines.  If anyone was for it, I would think it would be those looking to make a quick buck.  But, the commentator explained that new technology used by companies like Halliburton have made drilling in current locations very profitable and efficient.   It is possible to have a surplus of production without drilling in new areas.  He believed the long term costs of opening vulnerable areas to drilling would far outweigh any benefit, and hurt our economy in the future.

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)




Good news for elephants

I think we all need some good news.  Fortunately, the NRDC has published a list of good news for elephants as part of their year in review for World Elephant Day, which took place earlier this month.

They also published a list of concerns, which I will cover at a later time.

1. The poaching numbers of African elephants is still unacceptably high, but it has stabilized instead of increased, which is an important step in the right direction.

2. Law enforcement has improved, with better communication and less corruption.  Powerful poaching lords are being arrested both in Africa and Asia.

3. Ivory crushes – the process of destroying ivory stocks – has proven to be an effective marketing tool to raise awareness about the elephants’ plight, and has reduced the problem of thieves selling ivory on the black market.

4. China has made enormous strides to reduce its consumption of ivory, with the government banning ivory markets.

5. The U.S. ivory bans now have data proving they have been effective in reducing demand, and thus have saved many elephants’ lives.

6. Activists at every level – from average citizens to celebrities and royalty to experts in the field have created a movement worldwide to save the elephant.  CITES Secretary General Jon Scanlon stated: “The momentum generated over the past few years is continuing to translate into deeper and stronger efforts to fight these crimes on the front line, where it is needed most—from the rangers in the field, to police and customs at ports of entry and exit and across illicit markets.”

I think this is true…fifteen years ago, I would be hard pressed to find articles about saving elephants.  Now, I can open People magazine at the supermarket and find a large story about it.  Let’s keep the discussion going!


World Elephant Day

IMG_5237Today is World Elephant Day.  Here is a picture from my recent visit to the zoo.

I got an email from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, updating me on my foster elephant (reminder: you can foster an elephant for $50).  It also talked about World Elephant Day and offered an opportunity to send an elephant vocal message.  Details are below:

“Saturday 12th August is World Elephant Day, an extra opportunity for all of us to celebrate elephants and draw global attention to the threats they face, as well as the work being done to help these most majestic of animals. To make it possible for elephants to be truly heard this World Elephant Day, the Trust has created Say Hello in Elephant, a web based campaign that allows you to translate messages into elephant calls and share them with friends and family. The translations are based on decades of research into elephant communication by ElephantVoices and we hope you will take a moment to visit: http://www.helloinelephant.com and translate a message to share with your friends. I find it exciting to think that we can bring the true sounds of elephants to people all over the world, a sound that could be lost, were it not for the support of caring people like you, who help us to protect them.”