15 TED Talks to watch if you care about Elephants

15 TED Talks to watch if you care about Elephants

 

TED talks are my favorite videos on YouTube besides funny animal videos. I guess TED talks are my favorite videos to watch when I want to feel productive. Because I just started a new law job (yay!) that is super writing-focused and has a billable hour requirement, I am spending a LOT of time in an office.. at a desk.. staring at a computer monitor. To stay somewhat sane, I have (a) brought a cactus into the office, whom I have named Four Ninety-Nine for reasons you’ll probably figure out on your own; (b) displayed a few pieces of my own art to remind me of other things I like to do (See cover photo); and (c) started working my way through every TED talk in existence.

 

IMG_0979

Four Ninety-Nine

 

*Note:  My absolute favorite talk of all time is Elizabeth Gilbert’s, entitled “Your Elusive Creative Genius.” It is honest and candid, but presented seamlessly and covers a fascinating array of topics- from the author being afraid of seaweed (same, girl – mushrooms) to the Greek origins of the idea of a creative genius. It is truly a work of art and half of the views are mine……… OKAY FINE I am going to play it while I write the rest of this post.

 

Anyway, I’ve compiled 15 talks that talk about elephants, conservation, or related issues that I think are still presented in an awesome way. (There are some talks out there that I think have the right message, but are boring.)

 

Now I can’t write because I keep going back to the youtube tab to watch Elizabeth Gilbert… BRB.

 

one hour later

 

Alright so here are the 15 talks that made my list, in no particular order and with unhelpful insights attached to each. Enjoy!

 

Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell – “Family Structure of Elephants

This lady has researched elephants for 20 years, so her two videos are like cliff notes on how elephants live their lives. Basically, elephants are just like us and have big personalities – go figure.

Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell – “The Secret Lives of Elephants

When elephants feel threatened, sometimes they point their butts at you and “sniff” over their shoulders.. so cute. 

 

Andrew Stewart – “Are Elephants Worth Saving?

Apparently we can fit more people into Fenway Park than there are Asian elephants left on earth… what. I like his perspective on human/elephant conflict: he observes that the people living in elephant range countries have the same right to protect themselves from elephants as we do to protect ourselves from, say, bears. And so, conservationists need to do better taking into consideration the needs of the human inhabitants of range countries. I also like his reminder that elephants are a super keystone species in that they support whole ecosystems.  He says if you are going to pick ONE species to save, elephants are the best candidate. Save elephants → save land → save plants → save other species. He also reminds us that America is the second largest ivory market behind China. Come on!

 

Dr. Susan Canney – “Punch Above Your Weight: Mali Elephant Project

She talks about supporting and growing an elephant conservation project in a place affected by war… with a dope accent.

 

Patrick Freeman – “Elephant Rumbles

AH this guy loves elephants so much! He studies them but also makes poetry about them. This is an artistic piece followed by a quick reminder at the end to not buy ivory. I love it. 

 

Alex Gendler – “Why Elephants Never Forget

A cute and informative lesson on elephants, how they can have PTSD and why their memories are good. Note the manipulative elephant eyebrow raise at 2:48.

 

Brad Spanbauer – “A World Without Elephants

A great talk but honestly I am just excited to finally know how to pronounce the word “baobab.” Apparently it sounds like “bay-oh-bab.” I’ve been guessing, usually saying “bow-bab” the three or so times per year I use the word. Not relevant.

 

Josh Plotnik – “How Can Elephants Inspire Children to Think Critically?

I remember reading this guy’s NPR interview when researching elephants in law school. This talk is cute and thoughtful. And, he did research at Emory! Huzzah

 

Johan du Toit – “An Idea for Humanity, from a considerate elephant

I really like this one. He says we should be more considerate and uses elephants as an example of how to do that. Apparently his little daughter was at a watering hole when a herd of elephants showed up to drink, and one elephant made the rest of them stand back while the little girl scrambled away from them. Like, they waited respectfully for her to finish her business even though that was totally their turf. So sweet. And, he says if all of humanity started behaving like the average American, we would need 4 earths to sustain that behavior. Ugh, truth hurts. 

 

George Monbiot – “Re-Wild the World

See for yourself.

 

Corneille Ewango – “Hero of the Congo Forest

This guy’s grandfather was a poacher, so he grew up helping poach endangered species. Now he works to combat poaching. He also mentions that a lot of materials we use, we don’t realize have a bad effect on the environment. Like, materials in our cell phones F up the congo. Humans are the worst how did we get to this point

 

Damien Mander – “Modern Warrior

Far and away the most quotable of all these talks. Also, this guy has “Search & Destroy” tattooed across his chest. He begins the talk powerfully, saying about animals, “Their suffering is my grief.” He also talks about humans suffering from speciesism and Peter Singer’s equal consideration of interests, which I got really into in law school. This guy is a super bad ass.

Damien Mander – “From Sniper to Rhino Conservationist

Starts off with a story of a baby rhino named Piglet CAN YOU EVEN

 

Geraldine Morelli – “Wildlife Conservation and the Art of Letting Go

In a brilliant French accent, she talks about two ways to love animals. The first type is really a fascination with animals where we put our interests first, and the second is wanting what is best for the animals. Take one guess which one is better for the animals. While working with monkeys she befriended one named Gizmo, and talked about having to “let go” when Gizmo was being assimilated back into the wild. And, I agree with her observation that now, we don’t need to watch animals in captivity. We have webcams like the ones in Kruger National Park to watch animals in real time. There is literally no excuse anymore to keep large species in captivity. 

 

Ron Kagan – “Animal Welfare and the Future of Zoos

He was director of the Detroit Zoo when they gave up their elephants because they weren’t thriving there. It was a bold step at a time when elephants brought a lot of money to zoos. He talks about this at 14:55. 

Through an internship a few years back, I got to go to Detroit and tour the zoo with him after hours. I remember getting choked up seeing an alligator in a really small enclosure, and even more upset watching the polar bears crawl around in the summer heat. While I’m proud of the zoo for taking steps to educate people about animals and elephants in particular, I just can’t get over the rest of the species that remain in captivity, in enclosures too small and unnatural for them to thrive.  Blah.

 

Hope you enjoyed these!

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 Affecting Elephant Conservation Part 3 of 3: State Law

Laws Affecting Elephant Conservation Part 3 of 3: State Law

Hello! Welcome to Overview of Current Laws that Affect Elephants Part III of III: State Laws. 

Revisit Part 1

Revisit Part 2

I really can’t with state and local law but here we go.

 

First, Animal Legal Defense Fund puts out a report ranking states in terms of their animal protection laws. Understandably, these laws are geared more toward small animal (pet) welfare. It is pretty insightful – a lot of the laws you probably wouldn’t even think about. Some states provide mental health evaluations for animal abusers. That’s pretty cool!

 

The top five states were

  1. Illinois
  2. Oregon
  3. Maine
  4. California
  5. Rhode Island

 

The bottom five states were

  1. North Dakota
  2. Utah
  3. Wyoming
  4. Iowa
  5. Kentucky

 

So…… okay.

 

Every state has some animal protection law. States regulate abuse of pets, sometimes abuse of farm animals, and exotic pets. This is because exotic pets (think: crazy birds, tigers, and monkeys) are dangerous, and often people that buy these animals don’t know what the heck they are doing. Also, a lot of states have wildlife native to the state, so they have to regulate that, too. Elephants don’t fall into any one of these categories – no one wants a pet elephant, no one farms elephants, and elephants aren’t native to any part of the US. They are only here as part of a zoo, sanctuary, circus, or in ivory form.

 

lolelephantquote

 

It’s rare to come across specific protections for elephants. Some states have taken the step to ban the ivory trade within the state, making exceptions for super old items, items with very little ivory in them, musical instruments with little ivory, and inherited items. Anyway, here are some laws I’ve come across that pertain to elephants.

 

 

Alabama: ?

  • You can’t game-hunt an elephant in Alabama, so don’t even try.

 

Alaska: N/A

  • You need a separate permit to exhibit an elephant, which in turn requires three things: (1) intent to exhibit the elephant commercially; (2) facilities to maintain elephant under “positive control” and “humane conditions;” and (3) insurance. I don’t think this is a big issue in Alaska. They are more worried about mammoth ivory, which experts say is very distinguishable from elephant ivory. #SavetheWoollyMammoth

 

California: Super Yay

  • First, California is pretty progressive when it comes to animal welfare. Well, activism in general (hippies!).
  • California banned ivory sales in 2015. This action closed the loopholes in an ivory ban that was already in place in the state. 
  • Second, it makes abusing an elephant its own misdemeanor. That’s pretty specific. 
  • Banned the use of bullhooks and other “training” devices on elephants. 

 

Florida: Boo

  • Florida has a specific statute for elephant ownership and care. Pro: it prohibits keeping an elephant as a pet. That’s good? Con: It allows for elephant rides, mobile elephant exhibits, and other sad things. Furthermore, any elephant taking part in this nonsense has to be “tethered,” i.e. chained, or enclosed by an electric fence when not being exploited.
  • Plus, the caging requirements made a stupid exception to the required “daily untethered movement,” saying the elephant can be tethered at all times for “security or breeding purposes.” That’s a really broad exception. Only after 14 straight days does the captor have to get a veterinarian’s note. Ridiculous. I can’t talk about Florida anymore.

 

Hawaii: Yay

  • Bans the sale of ivory 

 

Indiana: ?

  • Indiana mentions elephants in their Wildlife Protection Act, but I can’t really tell what’s going on. Elephants are mentioned only in the trophy hunting sections, but not as the subject of the hunting. 
  • I also don’t know about this ranch – what is going on in Indiana?
  • I honestly don’t understand. Someone help.

 

lol obama

 

  • petition to build a wall around indiana

 

New Jersey: Yay

  • Bans the sell of ivory 

 

New York: Yay!

  • New York has already banned ivory, and recently banned the use of elephants in “entertainment,” i.e. circuses and carnivals. Way to go NY, I loved you anyway. 

 

Ohio: Boo

  • Specifically allows for circuses and elephant back rides at the circuses as an exception to its “dangerous animal ban,” which would usually include elephants. Mmm.

 

Oregon: Yay

  • Bans the sale of ivory with a few exceptions. 

 

Rhode Island: Yay?

  • Banned the use of the bullhook and other weapons against elephants, including baseball bats. BASEBALL BATS. On an animal. Is everyone crazy? 

 

Tennessee: Let’s do more, TN!

  • Trained elephants can have contact with the public, and can be “tethered,” while other Class I species cannot. I don’t know. Maybe this is for the benefit of the Elephant Sanctuary in TN. 
  • Please don’t tether the elephants, everyone. Leave them alone.

 

Texas: ?

  • In Texas, if your elephant wanders off your property, your neighbors and/or the local police have to try to locate you. What in tarnation –
  • But this Dallas-based company exists that lets the public rent elephants for events in Texas. They also offer dwarf actors and “living tables,” and we’ll see if they respond to my email asking for information on how the elephants are taken care of.   This doesn’t have anything to do with Texas law…… YET.

 

Vermont: Almost!

  • An ivory ban didn’t quite make it, despite the awesome efforts of Ivory Free Vermont. In this interview, a representative of Ivory Free Vermont references Lawrence Anthony’s herd mourning his death.
  • Critics said the ban would only be a “drop in the bucket” in the ivory market since the real demand comes from China. Drops are how buckets get filled up! That’s how water works, people… I officially can’t with Vermont.

 

Washington: Yay

  • Total ivory ban, unless the ivory is proven to be at least 100 years old, or the item is less than 15% ivory. The “Save Animals Facing Extinction” Act also protects other species. This initiative got a LOT of support. 

 

That’s all I have for state law. Moving forward, I’ll be writing more about elephant traits, symbolism, and the philosophy behind conserving the species… with a little law sprinkled in, of course. Stay tuned and thank you for your support!

Elephants & the Law is re-branding – and a fun new word.

Elephants & the Law is re-branding – and a fun new word.

We are now The Elephant Advocate!

 

“Elephants & the Law,” while a great name, is a little bit limiting. There are some issues I’d like to write about that don’t fit into the “& the Law” description. “The Advocate” is already taken, so “Elephant Advocate” it is.

 

As always, I double-checked the definition of “advocate” before committing, because, you just never know. One of the “slang” synonyms of advocate is “libber.” A “libber” calls for the liberation of people or animals. I suppose it’s short for liberationist – Is liberationist a word? Google says yes. I toyed with the idea of re-branding to “the Libber,” but I don’t think I fit that description, and also the word sounds like “liver.”

 

libber.png

 

I have some interesting stuff coming for you guys soon. Thanks for your patience while we figure out what this blog should look like.

 

For now, here is an interesting article outlining what happens with dollars given to elephant charities. Educate yourselves!

 

Happy Thursday!

 

Bonus Cocktail Post – Amarula Liqueur

Bonus Cocktail Post – Amarula Liqueur

 

When I posted the Bonus World Elephant Day Cocktail Post, I almost regretted it because I thought, I’ll never have another elephant conservation-related cocktail idea.

 

Wrong! Fake news.

 

Introducing….

 

IMG_7959

Amarula 

 

If you haven’t heard of Amarula (I hadn’t until recently), it’s a liqueur made of sugar, cream, and brandy distilled from the fruit of the Marula tree. The liqueur is made in South Africa.

amarula tree
Marula Tree

 

 

From The Whisky Exchange:

Distilled from the fermented fruit of the Marula tree, a native of the African plains. The spirit is aged for three years, then blended with cream. If you like Bailey’s you should give this a try.

marula fruit

 

 

You can read another good description on The Manual.

 

The most important thing to note about Amarula: it is D E L I C I O U S. It tastes like toffee and caramel with a hint of something weird and wonderful, but it’s not so thick that it feels like drinking glue (Glue is Gross, or, Why I Have Issues With Eggnog). Amarula has really struck the perfect balance of cream/toffee/sweetness/fruit.

 

Elephant Conservation

 

The main reason I am down with Amarula is because the company supports elephant research and local women’s groups in South Africa. They started the Amarula Trust to focus on elephants. The researchers collar and track elephants that are caught up in Human Elephant Conflict (HEC), then they track the elephants’ movements and patterns to help reduce negative run-ins with humans. 

 

amarula trust

 

They also started a campaign recently called Name Them Save Them, where you can choose, design, name, and share a virtual african elephant. I did and named her Louise. #saveLouise

 

Louise

 

The Amarula bottle is sold with a gold tassel around the neck, which is hand-crafted by women at Sir Lowry’s Pass, a poor village nearby in South Africa. These women live in extreme poverty, and some have never worked before. Through this expanding project, the women have access to exercise classes, parenting training, and english classes.

 

How It’s Made

 

My understanding* is that locals in the Limpopo province of South Africa harvest and sell the fruit to the distiller. The fruit is checked for ripeness and then put through a “washing, stoning, and pulping process.” And…

 

From The Scotsman:

“The contribution to the local economy does not end here. The stones are given back to the community because the kernel is an edible nut of the cashew family and the shell can also be used in the production of face cream. Both are useful sources of additional revenue for a far-from-prosperous area.”

 

At some point it’s blended with cream and sugar.

I love that Amarula is a liqueur with social awareness.

 

How To Drink It

 

Like a lot of other websites have said, Amarula is best enjoyed over ice or neat.

 

Some other interesting recipes I stumbled across:

 

These are great (2 out of 3), but I was determined to come up with my own cocktail. So I purchased a bottle and a few other ingredients, and got to work. 

 

 

IMG_7960
Every time I see this photo I think of Beyoncé saying, “Okay ladies now let’s get in formation,” except I say babies instead of ladies. Because baby liquor bottles.

 

 

Since Amarula and Kahlua seem to be considered distant cousins, and I do enjoy a good White or Black Russian, I thought a play on those sounded nice.

 

After hours of practice I ended up with the Russian Rose™. Its deceivingly simple ingredients caused me trouble, but if you break up the steps you end up with a smooth, sort of frothy pastel pink drink. The cocktail is creamy, sweet, and packs a punch. (Note: Amarula uses real, although local, cream. If you usually avoid dairy, proceed with caution).

 

Russian Rose

 

What’s cute is that I tried to mix vodka, Amarula, and a little grenadine together just to taste, and was surprised when the grenadine turned into little specks. When I dumped a little lemon juice into the mixture (not sure why), and the entire concoction turned into a Cement Mixer shot, I realized I had a curdling situation on my hands. No worries, I worked it out for you.

 

Instructions:

 

  1. Shake 1 ½ oz vodka with ¼ oz grenadine. Strain into one of your shaker tins.
  2. Add lots of ice to shaker tin with pink vodka, and start stirrin’. (May need to youtube how to properly to stir cocktail).
  3. While stirring, slowly pour 1 oz of Amarula into vodka/ice. This should prevent curdling. (After tasting, decide if you want to change your ratios to your taste).
  4. Pop the other shaker tin on and shake that mixture. Strain into chilled martini glass.
  5. Enjoy!

 

IMG_7969      IMG_7970

 

IMG_7971

 

The grenadine should add color, not too much taste. The Amarula is sweet enough without it. Honestly, I just wanted vodka and Amarula.. But.. pink.

 

We got lucky with this liqueur, folks. If it was, say, Sambuca, mushrooms, or eggnog wanting to help elephants, I would really be in an ethical dilemma. Taste-testing would not be quite as fun.

 

If all else fails, just throw some Amarula in your coffee. Taste-tested and approved by me.

 

I hope you enjoy reading, dreaming, and wistfully thinking about this cocktail, and I hope you name and save an elephant!

 

Keep Calm if you Can

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?

 

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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.

 

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