The Wrong Way to Protect Elephants

Reblogged from The New York Times.

Making legal trade illegal and turning good citizens into criminals will make it easier for FWS to make cases against Americans here at home, but it fails to address the hard work of catching poachers and real criminals that are determined to kill every living elephant. ~Andrew Wyatt

The New York Times | The Opinion Pages |OP-ED CONTRIBUTORS
By GODFREY HARRIS and DANIEL STILESMARCH | 26, 2014

27harris-master495THE year was 1862. Abraham Lincoln was in the White House. “Taps” was first sounded as a lights-out bugle call. And Steinway & Sons was building its first upright pianos in New York.

The space-saving design would help change the cultural face of America. After the Civil War, many middle-class families installed them in their parlors. The ability to play the piano was thought to be nearly as important to the marriage potential of single ladies as their skill in cooking and sewing, signaling a young woman’s gentility and culture.

The keys on those pianos were all fashioned from the ivory of African elephants. And that is why one of these uprights, the oldest one known to survive, in fact, is stuck in Japan.

The director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service recently issued an order prohibiting the commercial importation of all African elephant ivory into the United States. (Commercial imports had been allowed in some instances, including for certain antiques.)

The Obama administration is also planning to implement additional rules that will prohibit, with narrow exceptions, both the export of African elephant ivory and its unfettered trade within the United States.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has said that these new rules will help stop the slaughter of elephants. But we believe that unless demand for ivory in Asia is reduced — through aggressive education programs there, tougher enforcement against the illegal ivory trade and the creation of a legal raw ivory market — these new American regulations will merely cause the price to balloon and the black market to flourish, pushing up the profit potential of continued poaching.

In short, these new rules proposed by the Fish and Wildlife Service may well end up doing more harm than good to the African elephant.

Read more at The New York Times...

 

THE FLAWED ASSUMPTIONS BEHIND ELEPHANT ECOTOURISM

Reblogged from Conservation Magazine.

According to a NEW study, an over-increase in elephant density does not equate to increased eco-tourism, and could actually lead to a decrease in biodiversity. ~Andrew Wyatt

Image © Alexandra Lande | Shutterstock

Image © Alexandra Lande | Shutterstock

March 20, 2014 | Conservation This Week

If you have more elephants, they will come. That’s been the philosophy behind attracting tourists to wildlife reserves in South Africa. But this assumption is flawed, according to a new study in Ecological Applications. Increasing elephant density doesn’t translate to more ecotourism, and doing so could end up hurting the biodiversity that these parks are meant to protect.

Reserve managers depend on tourists for much-needed revenue. To keep visitors happy, managers often bring in more impressive animals such as elephants. But these charismatic creatures can damage ecosystems. For example, large numbers of elephants can knock down trees and reduce the number of plant species, which in turn can lower the diversity of animals.

The researchers studied five private reserves and an ecotourism operator in South Africa, where visitors can go on guided tours to spot animals. For each site, the team members found out how frequently tourists saw elephants in 2010. They also analyzed data on elephant populations and tourism in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa from 1954 to 2011.

Read more at Conservation Magazine…

Extinction v. Captive Conservation: The Fate of the Three Amigos

The scimitar-horned oryx was declared extinct in the wild in 2002 photo: Exotic Wildlife Association

The scimitar-horned oryx was declared extinct in the wild in 2002
photo: Exotic Wildlife Association

Recently, in a legal ploy designed to undermine the “Three Amigos” provision of the Appropriations Act of 2014, the Friends of Animals (FoA) filed a federal lawsuit to try and stop the conservation of three endangered antelope species.

In a legal and legislative skirmish beginning in 2005, conservationists and animal rights activists have battled over the fate of three endangered antelope. It began when US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) added the scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle and addax (a|k|a the Three Amigos) to the Endangered Species list– but allowed an exemption for legal trade and hunting of captive bred specimens here in the United States. FoA and other animal rights activists filed a federal lawsuit hoping to overturn the exemption and block these captive conservation efforts. Subsequently, in 2009 they got their wish, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down the FWS exemption, putting the Three Amigos in jeopardy of extinction once again. Then, in January of this year, the Appropriations Act of 2014 was passed and signed into law by President Obama with a “Three Amigos” exemption that once again cleared the way to conserve the endangered antelope through captive breeding.

Addax photo: Fossil Rim

Addax
photo: Fossil Rim

This is about more than legal and political wrangling. It is about endangered species conservation on a grand scale. It is about hunters and ranchers turning species away from the brink of extinction. Today, thanks to the dedication and sound husbandry of ranchers, there are thousands of scimitar-horned oryx and addax, and a growing population of dama gazelle, thriving on tens of thousands of acres in Texas. This private model of conservation has been a resounding success and has not cost the taxpayer a dime. It is an unprecedented conservation safety net that has been villanized by its critics for what appears to be purely ideological reasons.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other members of the animal rights industry stand for the proposition that hunting is morally wrong in all circumstances. HSUS has characterized hunting on a game ranch as a “canned hunt,” falsely conjuring images of blood thirsty men slaughtering trapped animals from the backs of pick-up trucks. Michael Markarian, HSUS Chief Program and Policy Officer, said, “hunters can bag endangered animals in drive-thru killing operations.” But when 60 Minutes did a segment on hunting on Texas game ranches, they did not find that Markarians’ comments rang true. In the spirit of “fair chase,” the hunter that was followed by the 60 Minutes crew lost an opportunity when the antelope eluded him in heavy cover.

Dama gazelle photo: Exotic Wildlife Association

Dama gazelle
photo: Exotic Wildlife Association

“Fair chase” is the opportunity to avoid being found, and once found, the ability to detect and escape the hunter. ~Charly Seale, Executive Director, Exotic Wildlife Association 

Charly Seale of the Exotic Wildlife Association (EWA), says that only a small percentage of surplus antelope on ranches are made available to hunt. Some are sold to other ranchers. Others are sent back to their countries of origin in an attempt to reintroduce them to their natural habitats.

Those that are hunted are carefully selected. They live in wide open areas, often on thousands of acres, much as they do in their native range. A hunter must track and locate the proper animal just to have an opportunity.  The EWA has a Code of Ethics that upholds the concept of “fair chase.” There is no guarantee of success, and the antelope can and often does, elude a potential hunter.

The point is that because of hunting, these antelope have a tangible economic value that makes it possible to populate large herds right here in the US; a private model of conservation that costs the taxpayer nothing and demonstrates the commitment to preservation of species by hunters and ranchers. These programs have demonstrated their success already by preventing extinction, by making animals extinct in the wild, prolific in captivity.  Make no mistake, hunting is conservation.

"A lifetime struggle against the depravity of recreational hunting.” ~Priscilla Feral, President FoA

“A lifetime struggle against the depravity of recreational hunting.” ~Priscilla Feral, President, Friends of Animals

In the new book The Invisible Ark: In Defense of Captivity, Dave and Tracy Barker write of the inherent value of captive breeding as a conservation safety net. They espouse the principle that 21st century conservation depends upon creating economic incentives for local communities to preserve species. They denounce what they call the “Mantra of the Damned,” now adopted by some animal rights activists, which stands for the ideology, “better extinct than only in captivity.” Priscilla Feral, president of FoA embodied that dark sentiment when Lara Logan of 60 Minutes asked her, “…you would rather they [scimitar-horned oryx] not exist at all?” Feral responded, “not on a ranch in Texas.” To her, extinction of an entire species is preferable to thriving on hunting ranches in Texas.

The main driver for conservation here is a passion for these antelope. For the ethical hunter and conservationist, it would be a travesty of justice for these animals to disappear when there is the power and the means to save them. To forsake these magnificent creatures, and deprive our children of the opportunity to see them, just because some don’t philosophically approve of the only means of conservation that has proven to work, is unfathomable.

“For more than a century, [hunters] have been the backbone of conservation in this country…” ~Sally Jewell, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior – March 4, 2014

In a private economically driven model of conservation, hunters and Texas game ranchers have brought these magnificent antelope back from the edge of extinction. The Three Amigos have been given economic value that has paved the way for conservation. The EWA is working to return a dozen scimitar-horned oryx to their native range of Senegal in 2015. Another ranch and wildlife park, Fossil Rim, spends $250,000 a year returning scimitar-horned oryx and other endangered species to their native range. Thousands of tourists, school groups, scouts and church groups visit Fossil Rim every year. None of this will be possible if FoA succeeds in overturning the Three Amigos provision of the Appropriations Act of 2014.

ICCF Commends $23.7M Initiative to Combat Poaching & Conflict in Africa

ICCF Commends The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Nature Conservation Trust and SANParks for Announcing R255 million (USD $23.7 million) Initiative to Combat Poaching & Conflict in AfricaBlack_Rhino_on_Ngorongoro_Crater

March 18, 2014

The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Nature Conservation Trust and
SANParks Announce Historic R255 Million Commitment to Combat Poaching, Conflict in Africa

Three-year effort will intensify protection of Kruger National Park’s rhino population, and identify successful strategies to address poaching which finances conflict in Africa

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – The Howard G. Buffett Foundation (HGBF), a private foundation in the United States; the Nature Conservation Trust (NCT), a South African public benefit organization (PBO); and South African National Parks (SANParks) today announced an historic RAND 255 million (USD $23.7 million), three-year initiative to combat rhino poaching in Kruger National Park and test anti-poaching tactics that can be applied in other regions of Africa, where poaching can be a source of funding for armed groups. The announcement was made at the Rosebank office of Standard Bank, which also announced its own support for the initiative by providing favorable banking fees and interest on the funds which they will hold.

The effort in Kruger will create an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) using sophisticated detection and tracking equipment and infrastructure on the ground and in the air; elite canine units and highly-trained ranger teams; and improved intelligence gathering and observation and surveillance systems. Kruger is currently home to over 40% of the world’s remaining 22,000 rhinos, the largest single population of rhinos in the world. Since January 2010, 1,383 rhinos have been poached from Kruger National Park, part of a larger assault that resulted in 2,368 rhinos poached in South Africa over the past few years. In some areas of Africa, entire populations of rhino have been eliminated.

Kruger’s poaching problem is fueled mainly by illicit criminal networks in Mozambique, South Africa, and East Asia, but evidence suggests that armed groups elsewhere in Africa derive significant funding from poaching activities. Kruger’s IPZ will also serve as a testing ground to inform targeted efforts to combat poaching in these other African regions.

“SANParks, thanks to the leadership of David Mabunda, and Kruger National Park, under the direction of General Johan Jooste, provide a unique opportunity to test new technology and new ideas within the best operating national parks system on the continent,” said NCT Chairman and HGBF CEO Howard G. Buffett. “This effort joins our foundation’s historic support for conservation with our current focus on conflict mitigation in Africa, particularly in the Great Lakes region.”

“The scale, complexity, and strategic value of this initiative is truly unprecedented for SANParks, and we believe will be transformative in our ongoing efforts to address poaching and the decimation of the rhino population in Kruger National Park,” said SANParks CEO David Mabunda. “More importantly, the lessons we hope to learn and share across SANParks and the continent will, we believe, develop new and more effective ways to combat illicit wildlife trade, particularly where it is financing armed groups.”

The Leadership for Conservation in Africa (LCA), led by its South African-based CEO Chris Marais, will provide advisory and advocacy support for the collaboration.

NCT and HGBF have a long history of support for conservation in Africa. NCT, with 100% of its funding provided by HGBF, created the Jubatus Cheetah Reserve in 2001 and the Ukulima Research Farm in 2007, both located in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Through its direct investments and support for NCT, HGBF has, prior to this announcement, committed over RAND 485 million (USD $45 million) in South Africa for a range of conservation and agriculture development activities including strengthening environmental governance; carnivore research in the Shashe/Limpopo Trans-Frontier Conservation region; preservation of natural resources; cheetah research and regional planning for cheetah conservation; development of agricultural strategies and production of improved seed for smallholder farmers. HGBF has committed an additional RAND 1.9 billion (USD $175 million) in support of its Africa Great Lakes Peace Initiative, which also includes funding for anti-poaching efforts designed to interrupt the capital flow to armed groups.

The Howard G. Buffett Foundation works to improve the quality of life for the world’s most impoverished and marginalized populations. It focuses on three core areas: food security, water security, and conflict mitigation. Based in Decatur, Illinois, the Foundation is led by CEO Howard G. Buffett. Mr. Buffett has been a permanent resident of South Africa since 2007. To learn more about the Foundation visitwww.thehowardgbuffettfoundation.org.

The Nature Conservation Trust was established in 2000 by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation as a non-profit organization and later was converted to a public benefit organization. The Trust has two primary charitable purposes: to conserve nature, restore degraded land, and to help ensure the long term survival of cheetahs and other carnivores in situ; and to support research and improved practices in agriculture for smallholder farmers to reduce food insecurity on the African continent.

South African National Parks manages a system of parks which represents the indigenous fauna, flora, landscapes and associated cultural heritage of the country. The national parks are: Groenkloof, Kruger, Table Mountain, Marakele, Golden Gate, Camdeboo, Mountain Zebra, Addo Elephant, Garden Route National Park (Tsitsikamma, Knysna, & Wilderness), Bontebok, Agulhas, West Coast, Karoo, Namaqua, |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld, Augrabies, Kgalagadi, Mapungubwe, Tankwa Karoo and Mokala. To learn more visit www.sanparks.org.

Read the Press Release

Find out more about the International Conservation Caucus Foundation.

Terrorists, Tusks and the Ivory Crush

photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service

photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Today ivory sells on the black market for about $1500US per pound. Al-Shabab, a Somali splinter cell of al Qaida, raises $600,000 per month from poaching activities. Local African warlords and international crime syndicates fund their own violent and illegal activities through ivory poaching. Any reduction in the supply of legal ivory to growing middle class markets in China will skyrocket prices for illegal supplies, with profit margins for terrorist groups, warlords and criminals escalating correspondingly.

Recently the Obama administration announced that US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) would promulgate a rule that would ban ivory sales in the United States. Government agencies around the world have postured with high profile ivory crushes and burns from China to the United States and Kenya. Even Prince William wants to crush the Royal ivory collection in the UK. This week the Administrations’ Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking will meet to discuss their strategy to enact  a rule ending legal trade in the US. But will destroying stockpiles of ivory and criminalizing legal trade really stop ivory poaching in Africa? There is no evidence to support that belief.

“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” ~Thomas Sowell

While seemingly noble, these measures are largely symbolic and are likely to drive the price of ivory up by creating scarcity. Markets are driven by supply and demand. When the supply is reduced and the demand continues or increases, prices move up. Even the perception of scarcity puts upward pressure on markets. This is all Economics 101, and it applies equally to legal and illegal markets.

The face of ivory poaching in Africa

The face of ivory poaching in Africa

Propaganda in support of the ivory crush theory suggests that eliminating the world’s stock piles of ivory and criminalizing legal trade works to discourage black-market trade; that somehow legal trade provides cover for illegal trade. The opposite effect is far more likely. Without a significant decrease in the demand for ivory, scarcity, even perceived scarcity, will likely drive the price for illicit ivory to all time highs. Black-market trade will become more lucrative than ever. Criminals will be emboldened by the world’s inability to protect elephants in Africa, nor implement a workable strategy to reduce demand in ivory markets.

Instead of crushing valuable stockpiles of ivory in a grand symbolic gesture, sell the ivory in legal markets and use the money for elephant conservation. This is not about writing symbolic checks that are the fodder of photo ops and behind the scenes corruption– but about putting beans and bullets directly on the ground to be used by the rangers who need them. We should use money from legal ivory sales  for the recruitment and training of additional personnel, outfit them with the equipment they need, and deploy them to fight sophisticated poaching rings. Crushing ivory out of existence only increases it’s value on the black market.

Ivory poaching is funding international terrorism. Making it more difficult and more dangerous to kill elephants, while educating  the Chinese to the realities of ivory trade, will mitigate the flow of money from ivory to terrorist activities.

Al-Shabab makes $600,000 per month on poaching and employs child soldiers.

Al-Shabab makes $600,000 per month on poaching and employs child soldiers

Money from legal ivory sales could fund educational programs targeting the Chinese middle class.

Making legal trade illegal and turning good citizens into criminals will make it easier for FWS to make cases against Americans here at home, but it fails to address the hard work of catching poachers and real criminals that are determined to kill every living elephant.

We should utilize the groups that have the most at stake in elephant conservation. Hunting groups, gun and equipment manufacturers, and NGO’s. They all need to step up to the plate and play a larger role in preservation of the species they value. Protecting elephants as a resource that will be available for future generations should be a common goal of all of these interest groups. The focus needs to be on leveraging relationships on the ground in Africa, and empowering small specialized projects that get equipment, supplies, manpower and training where they are needed most. We should be using the legal sale of confiscated ivory to fund putting boots on the ground to undercut poaching.

Additionally, a larger effort needs to go into educating middle class ivory consumers in China. Again, NGO’s funded in part by legal sales of ivory could create a model for education– essentially an “issue campaign” to change the hearts and minds that currently have such an appetite for ivory and a steadfast superstition that tusks grow like human fingernails.

If we insist on going down the primrose path of symbolic conservation gestures that actually aggravate the situation,  while wasting what could be irreplaceable conservation dollars from ivory stockpiles, we fail. We will never address the  fundamentals of supply and demand. Our current course will make it so lucrative and easy for criminals and terrorists to continue their activities that elephant populations could be pushed to the brink.

Funding for elephant conservation is limited. Criminalizing legal trade of ivory at home is foolish, ineffective and distracts from actual conservation. We are running out of time for the usual tortured process of political posturing and the stroking of egos. We need to get resources on the ground and limit markets in short order. Elephants died for the ivory being crushed. Should their deaths be for naught? Use the money from legal sales of ivory to protect the future of elephants for generations to come. Stop the ivory crush.

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WyattP2The ivory crush and other wildlife issues are highly charged and contentious. I specialize in working with clients to employ campaign style tactics to change hearts and minds on vital issues in the wildlife sector. Please follow The Last Word for insight and analysis particular to the 21st century wildlife sector. If you would like to discuss the potential advantages of running a targeted issue campaign, and/or a comprehensive government affairs strategy, please call or email me. ~ Andrew Wyatt

A Caretaker and a Killer: How Hunters Can Save the Wilderness

Reblogged from The Atlantic.

“Hunting is Conservation… No one takes the philosophy of responsible stewardship and species preservation more seriously than the American hunter.” ~Andrew Wyatt

Stereotypes of gun-toting brutes and tree-hugging hippies miss the basic facts about who is protecting nature—and why.
TOVAR CERULLI | MAR 14 2014, 10:12 AM ET

kkirugi/Flickr

kkirugi/Flickr

Excerpted from The Atlantic:

The ideological turf matters far less than the ground beneath our feet—the real places that, once lost, may never be restored.

Hunting and environmental organizations don’t always see eye to eye, of course. Intense controversy has arisen over wolves, for instance. Some environmental groups have argued for continued federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, often citing the ecological value of top-level predators. Some hunting-conservation groups have argued for state management and public hunting, often protesting wolves’ predation on cherished game species such as deer and elk. Other organizations have remained neutral. In some cases, the politicized debate has driven wedges between longtime allies, causing rifts that will not be easily healed.

When clashes occur, it is all too easy to fall back on reductive notions about liberal, elite environmentalists and conservative, redneck hunters—the “greens” versus “the hook-and-bullet crowd.” With partisans on both sides invoking stereotypes and the media portraying hunters and environmentalists as opponents, it is tempting to imagine stark lines between the two.

But such divisions are too simplistic. As it turns out, many predator-conservation advocates are hunters. My tracking instructor Sue Morse, for instance, became a hunter in her 40s as a direct result of studying four-footed hunters. Interested in procuring more of her own food, she was drawn to emulate the animals she appreciated so deeply. Michael Soulé, the father of conservation biology, is also a hunter, as were famed conservationists Aldo Leopold, Olaus Murie, and Sigurd Olson.

 Read more at The Atlantic…

 

Scimitar-Horned Oryx: The Return to Africa

“Private conservation in Texas is bringing the Scimitar-Horned Oryx back from the brink of extinction. In 2000 this endangerd antelope was declared extinct in the wild. Now Fossil Rim is working hard to return this magnificent animal to it’s native range in north Africa.” ~Andrew Wyatt

Words On Wildlife

Scimitar-horned oryx (SHO) were declared extinct in the wild in 2000.  Conservationists, such as Fossil Rim and the Sahara Conservation Fund, are working hard to breed this species and reintroduce SHO into large protected areas in northern Africa.  This species was formerly native to the Sahara Desert and was heavily diminished by overhunting and habitat loss.  Fossil Rim has more than 20 SHO in our herd and has produced six to eight calves during each of the last three years.

RS11599__DO12422

RS3180_ScimitarOryx3 Scimitar-Horned Oryx

 Fossil Rim is also working to support the conservation and propagation of SHO in protected areas in Africa.  In 2007, Fossil Rim sent two scimitar-horned oryx and two addax (a critically endangered species) to Tunisia to join captive herds living in a large protected area that is several thousand hectares in size.  Numerous zoos have sent SHO and addax to Tunisia, and the hope is that someday these…

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