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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
President Donald Trump
Dismantle the International Wildlife Conservation Council
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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
President Donald Trump
Dismantle the International Wildlife Conservation Council
(Consider adding your own thoughts — personalized messages are especially effective)
President Donald Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr. deserves to be deported for hunting and killing an elephant and other wildlife, animal rights activists demand.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced Friday it plans to put up a billboard in towns bordering Mexico features an infamous image of Trump Jr. holding a knife and the tail of an elephant he apparently shot abroad.
“Deport callous cheating opportunists now! All nations have their undesirables. Kindness welcome,” the billboard slated for El Paso and Laredo, Texas, states
by Fran Silverman, FOA Friends of Animals
The Trump administration is making it easier for Americans to go to Africa, shoot elephants and lions and bring their body parts home as trophies to mount on walls – all in the name of conservation….
Hunter supporters use unscientific bear sightings to inflate numbers and livestock conflicts to scare the public to justify bear hunting.
Image from Memories of Elephants
If it sounds ridiculous, it likely is. So say this out loud and tell me how it sounds.
Shooting endangered and threatened species will help save them.
Here’s another one.
Hunters are helping keep you safe by killing black bears.
In honor of National Wildlife Week, let’s parse these statements.
Supporters of black bear hunts assert that the bears are a nuisance at best and a safety hazard at their worst. They point to unscientific bear sightings to inflate numbers and livestock conflicts to scare the public. Killing them will solve this, they say. And the hunters then get to take home the bears to mount or use as rugs. Nice reward for saving all of us.
On a national level, the Trump administration is making it easier for Americans to go to Africa, shoot elephants and lions and bring their body parts home as trophies to mount on walls – all in the name of conservation.
The thing is, the science doesn’t back any of this up. This month a new study published in Science Advances found issues with the science cited in the “North American Model of Wildlife Conservation,” which guides hunting policies. The study found that what counts for science is rarely defined. In fact, a majority of the science in management plans surveyed — 60 percent — contained fewer than half of criteria for the fundamental hallmarks of science, which include measurable objectives, evidence, transparency and independent review. The report reviewed 62 U.S. state and Canadian provincial and territorial agencies across 667 species management systems.
“These results raise doubt about the purported scientific basis of hunt management across the U.S. and Canada,’’ it concluded.
The claims of hunting as conservation of endangered and threatened species also don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. There aren’t any documented, peer-reviewed studies that show that lawful hunting does not overall disadvantage the species being hunted. Emerging studies, in fact, indicate that legal hunting can increase demand, promote black-market trade of sport-hunted animals and reduce the stigma associated with killing wildlife.
The African elephant population has plummeted by 30 percent in seven years, with just 350,000 left in the world where once there were millions. The population of lions has declined by 42 percent, with just about 20,000 left. Additionally, a new study by Duke University found that poaching and habitat loss have reduced forest elephant populations in Central Africa by 63 percent since 2001.
Yet, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was lifting a ban on trophies from several African nations and will allow them on a case-by-case basis. This action, coupled with the Department of Interior’s creation of an International Wildlife Conservation Council comprised of hunting industry representatives whose stated goal is to advise the agency on the benefits of international hunting, removing barriers to the importation of trophy-hunted animals, and reverse suspensions and bans on trade of wildlife, sends the message that the only way to save these majestic creatures is to make sure it’s easier to shoot them to death.
On a local level, here in my home state of Connecticut where FoA is headquartered, I listened intently as supporters of a bill to kill 5 percent of the black bear population in the lovely Litchfield County region insisted it was necessary to prevent bear-human conflict. Bears are killing livestock! Bears are getting into garbage cans! Knocking over bird feeders! Scaring hikers on trails! Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!
I’m not making light of a bear encounter. They are formidable. But the science and the math for a shoot-first approach doesn’t add up. First, bears are shy and attacks are more associated with human behavior than the population of bears, studies show. To ward them off if you are a hiker, wear bear bells, carry bear spray. Worried about your backyard farm animals? Install an electric fence. Certainly, don’t feed bears, keep your doors shut and remove bird feeders in the spring.
The truth is black bear attacks are super rare. In the past 20 years, there’s been 12 fatal black bear attacks in the U.S, yet thousands of black bears have been slaughtered in legal hunts. More than 4,000 bears were killed in New Jersey alone since bear hunts were legalized there under Governor’s Christie’s reign before the new governor halted them. In New York, more than 1,000 black bears were killed in hunts last year.
Yet, along with that news in New York about the success of its 2017 bear hunt, there was this item buried in a press release from the N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation: 19 humans were injured by hunters last year and one was fatality shot, a woman who was just walking her dogs in the woods by her house. In fact, between 2011-2017, there’s been 14 humans killed by hunters and 131 injured in New York. In Connecticut, hunters have killed one human and injured 13 between 2011-2016. The number of bear fatalities in both these states? Zero.
The more I dug into fatal black bear attacks verses fatal hunting incidents, the more alarmed I became. In just six states I reviewed where bear hunting is allowed or being considered, there have been 500 humans injured by hunters and 63 killed. The stories are sad. People who were fishing when they got shot by an errant hunter’s bullet. Hunters shooting each other and themselves. And there was Rosemary Billquist, a 43-year-old hospice volunteer who was the woman from upstate New York shot dead last fall by her neighbor.
When FoA testified against a black bear hunt in Connecticut, pointing out the hundreds of injuries and startling number of humans killed by hunters, dispelling the myth that bear sightings at all indicate bear populations and showing there is a weak correlation between the number of bears in a region and bear-human conflict, the majority of lawmakers on the state’s environment committee saw the light and voted down the hunt.
But black bear hunts are still legal in a majority of states. It’s estimated that 40,000-50,000 black bears have been killed in hunts. But the fact is the number of fatal black bear attacks are rare.
Human hunting related deaths and injuries – not so rare.
The number of U.S. residents who hunt is dwindling every year. Yet, the damage they are doing to wildlife and other humans is astounding.
Elephants are becoming rare. So are lions. Shooting them to hang on walls doesn’t conserve them.
The math is the math and the science is the science.
Friends of Animals’ Communications Director Fran Silverman oversees FoA’s public affairs and publications. Her previous experience includes editor of a national nonprofit consumer advocacy site, staff writer and editor positions and contributing writer for The New York Times.
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(CNN)Several animal conservation groups are challenging in court the Trump administration’s recent decision to consider big game trophy import applications on a case-by-case basis.
(CNN)Members of a new Trump administration pro-hunting council met Friday for the first time, drawing objections from other conservation groups that say hunting is not the answer to saving big game species.
In early November—the same week the Trump administration announced its disastrous decision to allow elephant and lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia—the administration decided to create an advisory committee, the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), to advise Trump on how to enhance trophy hunters’ ability to hunt internationally.
Yup, that means the administration now has a council dedicated exclusively to promoting the killing of more imperiled species, like elephants and lions, for sport. The council’s mandate includes counseling Trump on the economic, conservation, and anti-poaching benefits of trophy hunting, of which there are very few. Sadly, Trump doesn’t want advice on the many drawbacks of trophy hunting.
The committee’s duties are similarly biased. They include “educating” the public about trophy hunting; ensuring federal programs support hunting; making it easier for U.S. citizens to import trophies; ending trophy import bans and suspensions (despite the fact our country heavily favors them, as shown recently), and using the pretext of “regulatory duplications” to eviscerate protections for foreign species under both the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (even though the U.S. law and the global treaty do different things).
Many conservation groups—including NRDC, World Wildlife Fund, Humane Society, Center for Biological Diversity, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare—urged the administration to abandon this dangerous proposal. Many also urged the council to, at the very least, include members from the conservation community. Instead, the Department of Interior went ahead with this flawed idea.
Even more shocking, all but one of the 16 discretionary members the administration chose, hunt foreign species that are subject to import permits, represent an organization that promotes hunting of such species, guide hunts for such species, or is a “celebrity hunter” who glorifies hunting of such species. Yes, I’m talking about people that head the NRA and Safari Club International. This insanely biased membership ensures that all committee decisions will benefit hunters at the expense of iconic species already on the brink.
Oh, did I mention that we, the public, will pay for these members to travel to Washington, D.C. twice a year for meetings?
The IWCC was created under a statute called the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which was promulgated to ensure that advice by the various advisory committees is “objective and accessible to the public.” The law states that advisory committees must also be “essential,” “in the public interest,” “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented” and “not be inappropriately influenced by . . . any special interest.” Clearly, the administration forgot to read the law when they formed this committee as it violates each and every requirement!
The first meeting of this council is scheduled for March 16 from 9:30 am-4:30 pm. While advance RSVP is required—the council is clearly trying to shield its actions from the public eye—we will keep everyone posted on what occurs.
Unfortunately, there’s one thing we all know without attending: this council spells disaster for elephants, lions and other imperiled foreign species that we all treasure.
“I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him. At that age I was not squeamish about killing animals, but I had never shot an elephant and never wanted to.”
— George Orwell, “Shooting an Elephant”
Well, some people do want to shoot elephants, for reasons that are all but impossible to fathom. Their meat doesn’t appeal to Western palates; they aren’t so abundant that their numbers must be reduced; and taking part in a guided hunt costs tens of thousands of dollars. But the Trump administration, after some delay, has sided with the shooters against the prey.
Elephants are unusually intelligent creatures with rich social lives and elaborate means of communication. They are also under unending siege. In the past three decades, the number in Africa has plummeted by two-thirds, leaving just 400,000. About 20,000 are killed each year for their tusks.
Some African governments allow them to be taken by trophy hunters. One of those sportsmen is Donald Trump Jr., who in 2012 was photographed holding the bloody tail of a slain elephant.
Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tried to discourage this macabre pastime by outlawing imports of elephant trophies from specified countries. African elephants are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, and the law says their body parts may be brought in only if “the killing of the trophy animal will enhance the survival of the species.”
In Zambia and Zimbabwe, the agency was not convinced that the governments’ policies served the purpose of conserving elephants. So Americans who wanted to shoot an elephant so they could bring back its head to hang on the wall were out of luck.
Last year, the agency announced it would lift the ban. But the decision sparked furious criticism, even from some conservative commentators — and prompted President Donald Trump to block it temporarily.
The president tweeted that he would be “very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.”
Now, however, his administration has quietly given its sanction to the practice — not just for elephants but also for lions. Instead of forbidding trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe, the FWS said it would grant permits on a case-by-case basis, under criteria it has yet to state.
How Trump squares this step with his previous objections is hard to guess. The latest FWS move followed a ruling from a federal appeals court that the Obama administration failed to use required procedures in issuing its ban. But that verdict didn’t require abandoning the policy. The agency could have started over and followed the rules as spelled out by the court.
The biggest threat to these beasts is not legal trophy hunting but killing by poachers who want to harvest their tusks for the ivory trade. The good news is that progress has been made in suppressing that commerce. Last year, China said it would stop all sales of ivory, and Hong Kong moved to ban them all by 2021. The black-market price has dropped sharply since 2014, reflecting a decline in demand.
But legal trophy hunting doesn’t help, because it gives a sheen of legitimacy to the whole business of slaughtering elephants for their body parts. In January, Trump proudly said, “I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back.” It’s not too late for him to stop it.
Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, was found with a stab wound to his neck at home in the capital Nairobi on Sunday.
The former UN special envoy for rhino conservation was known for his undercover work establishing black-market prices.
The US citizen had recently returned from a research trip to Myanmar.
Bradley Martin was in the process of writing up his findings when he died, reports the BBC’s Alastair Leithead from Nairobi.
His wife found him in their house in Langata. Police are investigating the circumstances but suspect it was a botched robbery.
Our correspondent says Bradley Martin had spent decades risking his life to secretly photograph and document the illegal sales of ivory and rhino horn, travelling to China, Vietnam, and Laos to pose as a buyer – helping to find out the level of black market prices.
He first went to Kenya from the US in the 1970s when there was a surge in the number of elephants being killed for their ivory.
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Conservationists believe that the ivory trade is largely responsible for the world’s declining elephant numbers
His work on illegal wildlife markets helped pressure China to ban the rhino horn trade in the 1990s, and domestic sales of ivory, which came into force this year.
Fellow conservationists have been paying tribute to him on social media.
Skip Twitter post by @paulakahumbu
2/3 Esmond was at the forefront of exposing the scale of ivory markets in USA, Congo, Nigeria, Angola, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos and recently Myanmar. He always collaborated with Save the Elephants and worked with many of us generously sharing his findings & views.
— Dr. Paula Kahumbu (@paulakahumbu) February 5, 2018
Always sharply dressed with a colourful handkerchief falling from his top pocket, Esmond Bradley Martin would immediately cut to the chase, honing in on the latest issue that was consuming him.
He was a well-known and highly respected character in the conservation community – passionate and unwavering in his efforts to crack down on illegal wildlife crime.
In a major report last year from Laos, he and his colleague Lucy Vigne established that the country had the world’s fastest growing ivory trade.
They risked their own safety staying at a Chinese casino inhabited by gangsters and traffickers in order to visit the illegal markets and find out the latest prices by posing as dealers.
His life’s work was combating the illegal trade of wildlife and he produced a huge body of highly respected research and investigative reports.
He will be a huge loss to the international conservation community.
In an interview with Piers Morgan set to air Sunday night in the U.K., President Donald Trump used the word “terrible” to describe the initial decision last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to overturn an Obama era ban on the import of elephant trophies.
Trump also says he does not believe the substantial fees that hunters pay to hunt elephants and other species actually go toward conservation efforts, as is often claimed, and instead are pocketed by government officials in other countries.
Trump confirms that the ban on importing elephant trophies from the African nations of Zimbabwe and Zambia will remain in place. That was not clear after he initially put the ban reversal on hold, pending further study.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, overseen by Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke, announced on Nov. 15 that it was rescinding an Obama administration ban on the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, saying money generated by the hunting goes toward conservation efforts.
“Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” the service said.
But the announcement on reversing the ban was met with scathing criticism from both the left and right. Powerful conservative media figures like Michael Savage and Laura Ingraham criticized Trump for the decision and called on him to keep the ban in place. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres announced a campaign to persuade Trump to maintain the ban that quickly went viral through the hashtag #BeKindToElephants.
On Nov. 17 Trump tweeted, “Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!”
The announcement that he was putting the reversal on hold shocked many, primarily because his two eldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, are both avid hunters and have been criticized for hunting wildlife in Africa.
Trump also is closely aligned with the National Rifle Association, which strongly lobbies for trophy hunting rights. Two days after he made that announcement, he tweeted, “Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.”
That tweet led some to believe the ban would remain in place but no further announcement was made as promised.
In his comments to Morgan, Trump said, “Well, I changed it,” referring to reversing the move to end the ban.
He continued: “I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back into this [country] and people can talk all they want about preservation and all of the things that they’re saying where money goes towards ― well, money WAS going ― in that case, going to a government which was probably taking the money, OK? I turned that order around. You know, that was an order. I totally turned it around. Were you shocked that I did it?”
Morgan: “I was surprised.”
Trump: “I thought it was terrible. That was done by a very high level government person. As soon as I heard about it, I turned it around. That same day ― not even a day went by. No, I was not believing in [the conservation argument].”
The interview with Morgan is Trump’s first major sit-down interview with a non-U.S. television network and airs at 10 p.m. Sunday on ITV.