An Angry Letter and A Positive Update

An Angry Letter and A Positive Update

Dear Readers,

Thank you for visiting again after my prolonged absence.

Sh*t is hitting the fan these days, and I would be remiss not to put in my 2 cents. There are no cute drawings in this post because I don’t feel like it.

In a disgustingly anthropocentric move this week, President Trump and his cronies began the reversal of Obama’s ivory ban. Whatever bogus science Safari Club International claims supports this decision, the symbolism, much like in every other despicable decision this administration has made, outweighs any argument in support.

Mr. Trump, Safari Club and NRA lobbyists, and Fish/Wildlife Service puppets:

  1. This decision normalizes the vile pleasure trophy hunters experience from traveling across the world to kill an already endangered species. FOR A TROPHY. And, I don’t know what your definition of hunting is, but having a safari guide drop a hunter off at a sleeping elephant or an elephant that will stand its ground to protect its herd so the hunter can shoot it is not hunting. It is murder. It is deplorable and heart-breaking.
  2. Have you seen a dead elephant, or do your sons just saw off the tail and tusks and carry on before the rest of the terrified herd returns? Do your sons get back on their private jet while the rest of the elephant herd mourns, in human fashion, the loss of the one your sons just murdered? Do your sons boast about their “kill” while the dead elephant’s insides slowly decompose, causing the skin of the elephant to look like used tissue paper, crinkled and thin, while its majestic soul seeps out of its deflated body. How does the evil of this, or of the murders of lions and rhinos, how does this not weigh on you? Where is your humanity? Did it get locked in a bank vault? Did you lose it in a bankruptcy proceeding? Maybe you were born without it.
  3. Where is your common sense? There is no room for “well-regulated” trophy hunting (it burns my fingers to even type this) when 100 elephants are being poached every day. How does hunting. an. ENDANGERED. SPECIES. HELP? How? Elephants are literally disappearing. And reversing a symbolic and effective ban on the body parts ripped from murdered elephants just so Trump’s sons can continue with their awful, bloody hobby – it is just shockingly brazen to me. I just can’t understand. I can’t. Safari Club’s cited experts are wrong, for a lot of reasons. The lies are so obvious, it’s unbelievable. 
  4. What a legacy you are leaving, Mr. Trump. The White House, with its complicated yet sacred history, is a zoo now. Filled with your incompetent loyalists angling for a tiny bit of power or 15 minutes of fame. What a legacy. Despite a business with locations all over the globe, you are appallingly out of touch with reality. And, despite having brokered a few deals since your messy regime came to power, you’ve done nothing good. You are not improving our lives. You are embarrassing. You’re racist and narcissistic. The half of America that voted for you, deserves you. Because you’ve always been that way. But elephants? Please, please leave them out of your path of destruction. Elephants are good. Elephants are one of the only reliably beautiful parts of nature left. Despite hardships caused by climate change, that myth you continue to try to dispel, elephants haven’t resorted to dirty tactics to save themselves. They are hoping, maybe, humans will come to their senses and save them, or at least stop murdering them.
  5. You are doing this so a couple of wealthy hunters can bring back an elephant tusk to the U.S. From two countries. You really think hunters will limit themselves to those two countries? No. Trophy hunters are no better than poachers. Anyone who would murder an elephant is obviously not keen on showing the slightest bit of human decency, so why would they follow your rules? Money and lordship over the animals is what drives them, and you.
  6. You are breaking the hearts of the millions of people who work, everyday, for modest pay (usually no pay, actually), to improve the lives of animals. We want nothing in return except for healthy populations of endangered species. No fame, no money, no power. But you, that’s what drives you. And you are killing everything good on this planet for a deal, for a dollar, for power. What a monster.
  7. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is a disgrace, too. The world is falling to pieces and he’s installing hunting arcade games in the Department of the Interior. He’s also a scam artist but, taken in the context of the rest of Trump’s cabinet, that’s not really news.  
  8. The worst part is, this will never stop. You, Mr. Trump, are old, ill-informed, and unfortunately set in your ways. I expect nothing less from you than ugly, money-driven transactions, at the expense of good people, defenseless animals, and the environment.

 

This stinks. So, let’s talk, instead, about people that actually care what happens to the rest of the world, and not our humiliating monkey of a president. Wait, monkey is too generous. I am truly horrified, but moving on.

Steven Wise heads up the Non-human Rights Project, which files suits on behalf of non-human animals (originally primates) to free them from captivity or otherwise fight for body liberty, or rights on the personhood spectrum. Recently (and as suggested in my paper, hehe), this group of animals grew to include elephants. This week, perhaps serendipitously in contrast to the horror of a reversed ivory ban, the NhRP filed suit in Connecticut on behalf of three elephants living in a ramshackle zoo up there. Apparently the zoo has repeatedly failed inspections, and what the hell is an elephant doing in Connecticut, anyway?

Minnie, Beulah, and Karen were all born in the wild. Now, they give back rides to nasty little kids and they have untreated sores on their feet. Their zoo has, 50 times, proven to be an inadequate home for them. Yet, here they are. Because the zoo wants to make money. Any person with a sliver of sense would see the elephants belong in a sanctuary, but in the spirit of the times most of the people involved continue to be disappointing and worthless. Hopefully Mr. Wise’s arguments are strong enough to convince a judge in Connecticut that the way we view wildlife is messed up. Fingers crossed for this trio, because it will set a ground-breaking precedent to grant them the relief NhRP is seeking on their behalf.

 

Finally, a few nights ago I attended a talk by Pat Awori at IFAW’s D.C. office. Ms. Awori grew up in  Kenya and is now a career conservationist there. It was interesting to get the perspective of someone native to the area. She spoke about confusion over land-use and the need for economic investment to spur conservation efforts within the Maasai community. She was engaging and honest. And her life’s work is being slapped in the face by rich white men and their children. I. Literally. Can. Not.

 

Sign the petitions below and be on the lookout for the public comment period regarding the regulatory change. It should be opening soon.

 

Petition Site

White House Petition

Change.org

Another Change.org

 

Sweet dreams everyone except the entire administration, Safari Club International, and the NRA. You guys suck.

 

Laws That Affect Elephant Conservation Pt. 2 of 3 – US Federal Law

Laws That Affect Elephant Conservation Pt. 2 of 3 – US Federal Law

 

Hello readers,

 

Thanks again for visiting and welcome to Part II of my rambling overview of the laws that affect elephants and other large species. The last post in this series covered CITES and other international agreements, and this post will cover US federal law.

 

Elephant flag scooter sombrero

 

Unity!

 

US Federal Law: 5 Relephant Statutes

  1. Endangered Species Act 1973
  2. The Lacey Act of 1900
  3. African Elephant Conservation Act 1989
  4. Asian Elephant Conservation Act 1997
  5. Animal Welfare Act 1966

 

Endangered Species Act  

 

Remember how I said CITES isn’t automatically law in countries that signed it? (sure you do!) Well, the ESA makes CITES federal law.

 

The ESA more or less does four things:

  1. identifies a species as endangered or threatened;
  2. determines whether there is a critical habitat for the species within the US;
  3. restricts government and private action against that species; and
  4. says the government now has to help save the species.

 

Let’s apply that to elephants.

  1. The ESA listed the Asian elephant as endangered in 1976, and the African elephant as threatened in 1978, loosely based on how the species are classified by CITES.
  2. Because elephants are not native to the US, they don’t have a designated critical habitat.
  3. Under the ESA, the government now cannot do anything that will further harm the elephant species. For private parties, however, the Act prohibits a number of actions. The Act says a private party cannot “take” a species – a legal term that has a broad definition. It basically means that a private entity cannot do anything to harm the species. (This is where I take issues with zoos – to be discussed later).
  4. Finally, the ESA instructs the government to take action to help elephants. So, the government passed the two acts we will discuss in a second, the African and Asian Elephant Conservation Acts.

 

The biggest problems with the ESA in general deal with provisions that don’t really affect elephants, mainly land-use provisions.

 

The biggest problem with the ESA as it pertains to elephants is all of the exceptions it makes for people that want to import elephants. BornFreeUsa.org has a really clear explanation of this process. It goes like this: if someone wants to import an endangered species, all they have to do is say that it is for “scientific purposes,” or, more commonly, that it will “enhance the propagation or survival of the species.” And they get a “Section 10” permit to import the elephant. 

 

The requirements to get these permits are vague, and so permits are way easy to get, and species are not being conserved or protected like the permit owners/importers are promising.

 

Lacey Act

 

The Lacey Act of 1900 (last updated in 1981) makes it illegal to trade across state lines in any species that is obtained illegally. Aka, it targets wildlife traffickers. How is it different from the ESA? The Lacey Act “underscores” other acts, by making trafficking a separate crime. The Lacey Act is older than most other relevant legislation, but according to this article, “still powerful.” So, since there is a ban on ivory imports in the US, anyone possessing or trading raw ivory in the US could probably be prosecuted under the Lacey Act. Cool!

 

African Elephant Conservation Act of 1989

 

Since the US is a party to CITES and passed the ESA, the US has accepted the responsibility to do something to improve the situation of the endangered African elephant. Congress dutifully passed this act, which establishes the African Elephant Conservation Fund, which gives money to the 37 African range countries (countries with elephant populations), and gives grants to projects that work in those countries. The act also establishes a moratorium (I had to look up this word – it means “suspension of an activity”) on the importation of ivory unless a bunch of conditions are met.

 

What conditions? Are the restrictions restrict-y enough?

 

Well, the Act still says sport hunting of elephants is okay, so strike one. Basically, if an ivory-producing country that is a party to CITES has “submitted a quota,” and the hunter “takes” (kills) the elephant in that country, he/she can import the “trophy” (tusks). An executive order under the Obama administration limited trophy imports to two, per hunter, per year.

 

Ivory restrictions

 

There are a few requirements a country has to meet for its ivory to be imported to the US. The country has to comply with and be a party to CITES, the country’s conservation program has to be up to snuff, etc.

 

But, right now all ivory trade is prohibited under CITES, because even the Appendix II populations have little asterisks next to their listings that include those populations’ ivory in Appendix I. So it looks like this Act’s exceptions are pre-empted (means they don’t even matter, because there is a stricter rule out there). This is crazy, but good.

 

Soo….. Is ivory banned in the US? Pretty much, according to National Geographic last year, but not under this act. Click here for a good explanation of what President Obama’s ivory ban does.

 

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Asian Elephant Conservation Act of 1997

 

Structured similarly to its African counterpart, this act creates a fund as well. The fund has sent money to eight Asian countries, including Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia. There is nothing about ivory or trophy hunting in this act, since Asian elephants are often tusk-less.

 

There are SO few Asian elephants left. This grant process should absolutely be utilized more by American non-profits.

 

Animal Welfare Act of 1966

 

When it was passed, the AWA was called the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act, because it was sort of in response to people’s pets being petnapped and sold to research laboratories. That’s pretty horrifying. And it prompted investigations into standards of care at all these labs, and apparently the labs were not doing so well providing luxurious conditions for their research animals.

 

So now we have the AWA, which sets standards of care for warm-blooded animals, but excludes rats and mice, and farm animals, AND cold-blooded animals. So really, only cute/furry animals. What?

 

IMG_7925

 

But it’s better than nothing, and people are always making noise about strengthening the law, and giving it more dollars to operate.

 

What does it mean for elephants?

 

Well, the AWA, by law, applies to “exhibitors,” which includes zoos and circuses. It prohibits keeping animals in conditions with “overheating,” “trauma,” “excessive cooling,” “physical harm,” and “unnecessary discomfort.” It only suggests the very minimum standards of care for animals.

 

What are the problems?

 

The problems with the AWA as it pertains to elephants deal with vagueness, weak standards, and enforcement. Some terms in the act such as “unnecessary discomfort,” are not defined. What is “unnecessary?” What is “discomfort?” The standards are not clearly outlined for different types of species. More importantly, even if the standards were higher, there are only a handful of inspectors for thousands of zoos and circuses. It’s unlikely problems will ever be uncovered.

 

Another reason the AWA does not do much to help elephants besides prohibit huge, obvious acts of mistreatment, is because elephants require more than other species. Elephants need more space to constantly move; they need to be able to forage for their food; and they need to socialize with elephants of their own herd. These needs are simply not taken into account by the AWA.

 

State and Local Law will be covered in Part III! Thank you for reading.