Mammoth news about elephants and their status

By on August 31, 2016 with 4 Comments

The number of elephants in the African savanna is in drastic decline, their population having dwindled by 30 percent between 2007 and 2014, according to the Great Elephant Census, the first-ever pan-African survey of savanna elephants. The report, released today, was funded by philanthropist (and HSUS supporter) Paul G. Allen.

This extraordinarily detailed and comprehensive effort, which required the participation of 90 scientists doing on-the-ground work in 18 countries, paints a deeply disturbing picture for the future of this iconic species. Between 2007 and 2014, the number of elephants dropped by a startling 144,000. Continent-wide elephant populations are shrinking by eight percent each year. Some of the worst declines are in Angola, Mozambique, and Tanzania. In certain parts of Cameroon and Zambia, elephant populations could be facing local extirpation. In Zimbabwe’s Sebungwe region — on the Zambezi River and Lake Kariba north of Hwange National Park — populations are down by a sickening 74 percent.

Great-elephant-census-map

Graphic by Great Elephant Census

The cruelty that is associated with the decline is soul-numbing. Mike Chase, the scientist who led the survey, told CNN that in just two days, his team counted the remains of more than 20 elephants in a small area in Botswana. In one case, poachers had hacked off the face of a bull elephant in his prime.

The survey results were released just ahead of two international forums where the stakes are high for elephants: the World Conservation Congress, which starts in Hawaii this week, and the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which is scheduled to take place in a few weeks in South Africa. Delegates at WCC and CITES will vote on a variety of elephant protection measures, including resolutions on the closure of domestic ivory markets. CITES member countries will also debate a proposal submitted by the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) to uplist all African elephant populations to CITES Appendix I, essentially affording the species the highest level of international protection possible.

Many might think that these measures should pass easily, given the dire plight of the African elephant, but it has been an uphill battle. Pro-trade countries in southern Africa, the conservation organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the European Union have opposed these measures for a variety of reasons. An op-ed in The Guardian by the WWF last month titled “The EU is right to oppose a global ivory ban” baffles many in the conservation community and provides ammunition for pro-trade interests.

These pro-trade groups argue that some African elephant populations in southern Africa do not meet the criteria for Appendix I. They ignore the fact that many of the elephant populations in southern Africa are experiencing severe population declines, including in Angola and Mozambique. The Great Elephant Census results confirm a continent-wide population decline and reinforce the urgent need to include all African elephants on CITES Appendix I to eliminate any potential to reopen the international commercial ivory trade. The HSUS’s global affiliate, Humane Society International, will be at the meetings working hard to defeat any pro-trade measures and assist the 29 member states of the AEC in their campaign to secure passage of elephant protection proposals and resolutions.

Mike Chase, the scientist who led the survey, told CNN that in just two days, his team counted the remains of more than 20 elephants in a small area in Botswana. In one case, poachers had hacked off the face of a bull elephant in his prime.

Mike Chase, the scientist who led the survey, told CNN that in just two days, his team counted the remains of more than 20 elephants in a small area in Botswana. In one case, poachers had hacked off the face of a bull elephant in his prime. Photo by Great Elephant Census

There is also much we can do here in the United States to shut down the destructive trade in ivory and other imperiled species products. The HSUS is backing a ballot measure in Oregon, YES on 100, that would prohibit the sales of 12 iconic and imperiled animals, including elephants, sea turtles, and leopards. Paul Allen has endorsed YES on 100, which has provisions closely aligned with a successful ballot measure that he and his Vulcan Foundation championed in Washington state last year. While the federal government recently implemented new regulatory changes to restrict the ivory market in the United States, state measures are a critical tool to complement the federal enforcement effort and close any gaps that the federal statutes cannot address. YES on 100 would ensure that Oregon does not provide a marketplace for ivory and other endangered species goods, and eliminate incentives for wildlife smuggling. If YES on 100 passes, Oregon would be on track to join other west coast states, including California, Washington, and Hawaii, in the broader effort to shut down the trade in endangered and threatened species products.

The Great Elephant Census makes it hard to remain optimistic about the survival of this majestic species. But the news should only cause us to put our shoulder to the problem in a more concerted way, since the very existence of the species is at stake. The research results are a blaring siren for all of us to see and hear, and to rush to help the emergency personnel already deploying to help the elephants.

While the news on the ground for elephants is more than discomfiting, let’s remember that we’ve seen good actions during the last two years, both from states and from numerous countries, including the United States, China, and France, that have taken steps to close their domestic ivory markets. Increasingly, stakeholders realize that elephants provide economic benefits through eco-tourism ventures for local communities. We must do all that we can to guarantee the survival of the largest land mammal and the icon of Africa’s natural heritage. Thanks to Paul Allen for bringing clarity to the challenge, and for reminding us of the stakes.

California leads again for animals — by banning bullhooks, orca breeding

By on August 30, 2016 with 0 Comments
California leads again for animals — by banning bullhooks, orca breeding

California Governor Jerry Brown is poised to sign a budget bill this week, and tucked within it is a provision to bar any breeding of captive orcas in California – making the state the first to forbid this practice. SeaWorld supports this new policy, as a logical follow up to the publicly announced reform package . . . 

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Breaking news: HSUS investigation connects New Jersey pet stores to notorious Midwest puppy mills

By on August 29, 2016 with 19 Comments
Breaking news: HSUS investigation connects New Jersey pet stores to notorious Midwest puppy mills

An HSUS undercover investigation covering every known pet store in New Jersey that sells puppies has revealed that many of these businesses sourced animals from puppy mills with Animal Welfare Act violations. Federal inspectors, in some cases, found bleeding or injured dogs and even dead puppies at the worst of the breeders. At some of . . . 

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A wild name, and an amazing, vast, new marine sanctuary

By on August 26, 2016 with 4 Comments
A wild name, and an amazing, vast, new marine sanctuary

Today, in an exhilarating lead-up to next week’s gathering of dozens of nations at the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, President Obama announced his intention to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, which will make it the largest marine protected area in the world. . . . 

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USDA may give us a different kind of Celebration

By on August 25, 2016 with 12 Comments
USDA may give us a different kind of Celebration

The annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration begins in Shelbyville, Tennessee, today — the high point of a months-long show season of torture and pain for walking horses subjected to the despicable practice of soring. The good news is, this may be the last year where abused horses are put on show with the blessing . . . 

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Grizzly bears under the gun in Yellowstone region

By on August 24, 2016 with 4 Comments
Grizzly bears under the gun in Yellowstone region

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are aligned on the idea of removing federal Endangered Species Act protections for Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears, and we could be looking at a federal delisting as early as this autumn. This, despite the fact that most of the American . . . 

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Oprah says ‘yes’ to Meatless Mondays

By on August 23, 2016 with 21 Comments
Oprah says ‘yes’ to Meatless Mondays

Arguably, no other animal advocate has the platform, the followers, and the influence of Oprah Winfrey. I was on her widely syndicated talk show years ago to speak on puppy mills and then again about Proposition 2 in California. But this past Sunday, it was a special privilege to appear on “Super Soul Sunday” to . . . 

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Merci to France for saying ‘non!’ to wildlife traffickers

By on August 22, 2016 with 1 Comment
Merci to France for saying ‘non!’ to wildlife traffickers

France has become the first European country to ban the domestic trade in ivory and rhino horn. This lifesaving policy, announced by Environment Minister Ségolène Royal, goes far beyond the European Union’s current wildlife trade regulations and follows a series of progressive steps that Royal has already taken to combat wildlife trafficking since 2014. Royal . . . 

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Breaking news: No spearing, says Under Armour—but an underwhelming response on trophy hunting

By on August 19, 2016 with 37 Comments
Breaking news: No spearing, says Under Armour—but an underwhelming response on trophy hunting

“Under Armour and the Bowmars broke up today,” Sarah Bowmar declared in a tweet yesterday. “I’ll do a blog post in a few days when I am no longer crying. #AntisWon.” Yes, that’s Sarah Bowmar, who shot a black bear with a crossbow this spring in Alberta the day before her husband Josh impaled a . . . 

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New York sends lifeline to lab animals

By on August 18, 2016 with 11 Comments
New York sends lifeline to lab animals

In The Humane Economy, I muse about the life of my dog Lily—a mixed breed whose beagle background yowls most prominently—before a rescue group pulled her from a rural shelter that had her on a euthanasia list. A veterinarian with Lost Dog and Cat Rescue said she was four or five when she came into . . . 

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