Monday, November 28, 2016

This Week's Elephant In The Room

Hawaii Revealed as Major Market for Illicit Ivory
An investigation by conservation groups found that the Aloha State boasts the third-largest trade in elephant ivory in the U.S.
(Photo: Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images)
An investigation by conservation organizations has found that Hawaii is the third-largest market for illegal ivory in the U.S., behind New York and California.

Over the course of six days, investigators located more than 4,600 items for sale from 47 online retailers. The items carried a combined price tag of $1.2 million. Although some of those goods were things such as carved walrus tusks, the majority were advertised as being elephant ivory. The illegal ivory trade is responsible for the plummet in African elephant populations in recent decades. Between 2010 and 2012, poachers killed 100,000 elephants for their ivory tusks.

Sellers identified during the investigation included retail stores (online and brick-and-mortar shops), as well as art galleries, artist associations, estate liquidators, auction sites, and individuals on Craigslist. Four of the largest retailers each had more than $100,000 worth of ivory in stock. One retailer had $574,000 worth of ivory products for sale.

Most if not all of this activity was likely illegal, according to the investigation. The sale of ivory is highly regulated in the United States. Under regulations passed two years ago, only the sale of antique ivory certified as having been imported prior to 1976 is allowed. The research revealed that just one of the Hawaiian retailers offered the required documentation and suggested that these documents are all too easy to fake.

“The new results were definitely surprising but in retrospect maybe shouldn’t have been,” said Peter LaFontaine, campaigns manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, one of the four conservation groups responsible for the probe. “It makes sense that Hawaii would be a big market for these products. Millions of Asian and American tourists visit every year, and it’s a prominent stop for air and sea traffic.”

According to the report, dozens of flights and ships arrive in Hawaii from the Asia Pacific region every day, making it easy to smuggle ivory into the state.

In addition, LaFontaine said that “authorities have only recently begun to crack down on ivory trafficking” and the new federal protections have not necessarily created progress on the state level.

That could change. A bill to ban the trade in products from elephants and a number of other wildlife species is making its way through the Hawaiian legislature. The state Senate passed the bill last month. The state’s Judiciary Committee approved it last week, and it now awaits a House vote.

Although previous bills to ban the sale of ivory in Hawaii have failed, this one appears to have greater support. “We are cautiously optimistic,” said Sara Marinello, executive director for government affairs for the Wildlife Conservation Society, another of the organizations behind the investigation. “Polls show over 80 percent of Hawaii residents support a state ivory ban. However, there is a very small but vocal group of ivory sellers spreading fear and misinformation,” she said. The National Rifle Association, for example, calls the legislation an attempt to take away people’s antique firearms.

LaFontaine said the new report may facilitate the passing of the bill. “We have been sharing the results with lawmakers and state agencies to help them understand the scope of ivory trade in Hawaii,” he said. “Fortunately, it’s helped to build the case that these bills are more than just symbolic, that they will address a very real problem in the state and ultimately help to reduce the amount of ivory trafficking there.”

New York and California have banned ivory sales. While it’s too early to say how effective those regulations have been, Marinello said that “the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has seen anecdotal evidence of less ivory in the marketplace.” She added that some stores still appear to be selling illegal ivory, but the new ban will help in prosecutions.

LaFontaine said the bills are important because federal law has little control over ivory sales that do not cross state borders. “Ultimately, we need states to take action to close the big loophole that is intrastate trade,” he said.

This New Map of Major Ivory Seizures Could Help Save Elephants. Despite scores of large-scale ivory seizures since 2000, only 18 have been fully investigated, a conservation group says.
A ranger watches over confiscated ivory at the Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters in Nairobi on April 4. (Photo: Carl De Souza/Getty Images)
It’s estimated there are 410,000 to 650,000 elephants roaming Earth. It sounds like a lot, but between 30,000 and 50,000 die each year, poached for their ivory tusks at a rate of one every 15 minutes—fast enough to put extinction of the iconic species in sight.

With illegal trade in ivory a major threat to the species’ survival, conservation groups, wildlife officials, and governments are increasing international cooperation to stamp out the global ivory market through efforts that include improving wildlife ranger security, deploying antipoaching drones, and taking more accurate elephant counts.

Now the United Kingdom–based conservation group Environmental Investigation Agency has created a tool to help agencies and the public better understand the global scale of the illegal ivory trade.

The newly released map pinpoints the location of every large-scale ivory seizure—those of more than 1,100 pounds of elephant tusks—that took place between 2000 and 2015. A reported 117 seizures have recovered an estimated 465,000 pounds of ivory in the 15-year stretch—equivalent to about 31,000 slaughtered elephants.

The findings are based on publicly reported large-scale ivory seizures and ivory stockpile thefts and represent only a portion of all illegally trafficked ivory.

Shruti Suresh, EIA’s senior wildlife campaign officer, said the map shows the scope of the mass killing of elephants and highlights countries that might need to beef up security around seized ivory stockpiles, as well as strengthen efforts to fully investigate where the seized ivory is coming from.

Despite dozens of major ivory seizures reported over the past 15 years, according to EIA, only 18 have been given forensic analysis, such as using DNA to identify where in Africa or Asia the poaching took place.

“There needs to be more done at these sources where the ivory is being seized,” Suresh said. “The seizure is only part of the enforcement. DNA analysis could help countries determine where ivory has been seized from, identify the poaching hot spots—the origin of the ivory—and help in planning antipoaching operations, identifying trade routes, and enforcing cooperation between countries.”

Suresh called this “a huge missed opportunity,” noting that recent DNA analysis of only a handful of seized ivory samples revealed that Tanzania is a major source of tusks entering the illegal global trade.

But she remains hopeful that countries will take a more in-depth look at their ivory stocks, in part because the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species announced a plan at its 2013 meeting for all countries to submit seized ivory samples to accredited forensic labs for sampling.

“That means the countries don’t have to develop expensive labs themselves,” Suresh said.

With the new map, EIA hopes to keep the pressure on these countries to do more follow-up work on their ivory seizures.

“Right now, seizures are proclaimed as sort of a success—which it can be, but a seizure in itself is not an enforcement success,” she said. “There needs to be an investigation into its origin, an arrest, and prosecution, which leads to a conviction and a meaningful sentencing.”

Rescued Elephant Who Spent 46 Years in Captivity Has a Blast in Sanctuary Home. If you have seen an elephant in the wild, you already know how majestic they are. They move their massive body weight like a dancer. A really large, gray dancer. And yet, despite their beauty, despite their clearly demonstrated intelligence (they speak to each other in a low, rumbling dialect and receive the messages via the vibrations they pick up with their toes!), elephants remain on the endangered species list and the ivory trade is still thriving. It is estimated that there are around 35,000 Indian elephants left in the wild today. However, there are thousands of Indian elephants that have been bred in captivity or kidnapped and subjected to an incredibly inhumane and painful training process before they are forced into a life of servitude.

Elephants in captivity are worked to death. They are pushed until, slowly, their body gives out and they are discarded as useless and unprofitable. Don’t get too depressed, organizations like Wildlife SOS, an animals rights and rescue group based out of India,  are working tirelessly to put an end to these cruel practices and save as many elephants as they can. Recently they rescued Asha and here is her story.

Meet Asha, she is 46 years old. Her entire life up to this point was spent in captivity.
Asha the Elephant is Rescued After 46 Years in Captivity
She began giving rides up and down steep hills to tourists in Jaipur. The strenuous labor and poor treatment resulted in several serious injuries. Since she was  no longer fit for the work, she was sold and became a begging elephant.
Asha the Elephant is Rescued After 46 Years in Captivity
When Wildlife SOS got to her, she was in bad shape. “She has painful abscesses on both the hips which are caused by lying on hard surfaces continuously. On examination of ears, piercing holes were noticed on the ear folds, also below the temporal lobe, indicating the cruel and painful methods of training and handling.” 
Asha the Elephant is Rescued After 46 Years in Captivity
Asha the Elephant is Rescued After 46 Years in Captivity
Asha the Elephant is Rescued After 46 Years in Captivity
After a lot of hard work from the doctors at the Elephant Care Center Mathura, and a lot of generous donations, Asha boarded a truck and headed to her new home.Asha the Elephant is Rescued After 46 Years in Captivity

And now she is very happy in her new home!

Though Asha would be much happier running free in the wild, because she has spent so many years in captivity and needs special treatment, she will live out her days in the comfort of her fellow rescued elephants and lovely caretakers. While her tale is heartwarming, Asha is the exception to the rule. Elephant abuse is still very prevalent all around the world. So let’s get involved! If you would like to support elephants like Asha, visit Wildlife SOS and donate to help them save more abused pachyderms. All image source: Wildlife SOS 
In Defense of Animals
PAWS International Captive Wildlife Conference. In Defense of Animals was one of the general sponsors at last week’s International Captive Wildlife Conference in San Andreas, California presented by the Performing Animal Welfare Sanctuary (PAWS). Many important issues were discussed concerning captive bears, big cats, and elephants. READ MORE

Wildlife Poacher Chase and Capture on Camera

Thank You from WWF