Today, at a press conference in Portland, Oregon, we launched a statewide ballot initiative to protect some of the planet’s most iconic animals – 12 different taxa, including elephants, rhinos, lions, sea turtles, rays, and sharks, all facing a range of human-caused threats that jeopardize their existence. The ballot petition was submitted by three chief co-petitioners: Congressman Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.; former Republican state senator Bruce Starr; and Oregon Metro Council President and Democrat Tom Hughes.
The Oregon initiative is modeled after I-1401, an initiative in Washington that voters will decide upon next month. Nearly all of that state’s major papers – including the Spokesman Review, Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, and Everett Herald – have already endorsed I-1401, and I urge all HSUS members in Washington to fill out their mail ballot, exercise their voting rights, and pass the nation’s most comprehensive anti-wildlife trafficking ballot measure.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen – owner of the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trailblazers – launched the Washington measure and his Vulcan Foundation is broadly committed to the animal protection goals embodied in I-1401 and the new Oregon initiative. While The HSUS and Allen’s Vulcan Foundation are working on the ground in the range states of these endangered animals, we also realize that we must address the problem of demand in China, Vietnam, the United States, and other consuming countries. These ballot measures are an additional way for voters to add their voices and fortify our wildlife protection laws, thus advancing our shared global fight to end the trade in the parts of rare wildlife.
Every 15 minutes, poachers kill an elephant for black-market ivory, sometimes even sawing off the animal’s tusks while it’s still alive. Last year in South Africa alone, poachers slaughtered more than 1,200 rhinos. Illegal fishermen hack off thousands of shark fins daily before tossing the mutilated fish back in the water to die. Unfortunately, the countries where these crimes are committed don’t always take action against the killers: as we found out recently, Zimbabwe has decided not to charge Walter Palmer, the American dentist who killed Cecil the Lion, and that sort of inaction makes it all the more important that we fight to end the demand for wildlife parts here in the United States.
Washington state is a major market for endangered species parts. Since 2010, there have been more than 50 seizures of elephant products in Washington alone, but not one resulted in jail time for the perpetrators. California is also a big commercial market for wildlife parts, and at our urging, Governor Jerry Brown just last week signed legislation to ban the commercial trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn. It’s time for us to lock down these Pacific Rim states and eliminate these major state markets for endangered wildlife parts.
We know that the poachers who kill elephants, rhinos, and other species for profit are often involved with some of the most notorious terrorist groups in the world, including Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. These militias are killing civilians. They are also robbing nations of a great resource: the beautiful herds of wildlife that have been one of the biggest generators of commerce through wildlife-watching and tourism.
The problem of poaching and its connection to terrorism may seem far off. But if you live in one of these states, this is a chance for your voice to be heard and for Oregon and Washington to make a critical difference in this global fight. You can participate in the first Save Endangered Animals Oregon Kick- Off, organized by The HSUS, this Thursday, October 15th. And if you live in another state, or another country, there are other things you can do to advance our anti-wildlife trafficking agenda, like refusing to buy wild. Together, let’s do our part to stop the cruelty and save these incredible animals for future generations. No trinket, or potion, or bowl of soup is worth the cost borne by these creatures or the nations that accrue economic benefits simply by keeping these magnificent animals alive.