Washington, DC – June 24, 2014 –The Wildlife Conservation Society applauds American actor Ian Somerhalder for his testimony before a Congressional subcommittee at today’s Federal Hearing on the U.S. Ivory Ban on behalf of elephant conservation.

Best known for his roles in the TV dramas Lost and The Vampire Diaries, Somerhalder appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, where he testified in support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan for a ban on commercial trade in elephant ivory. He also emphasized the importance of the Multinational Species Conservation Funds (MSCF), established by Congress to provide support for the protection of elephants, rhinos, tigers, and other species. The funds are due for reauthorization.

Somerhalder encouraged the subcommittee to extend the MSCF Semipostal Stamp, which raises critical funding for anti-poaching activities through purchases of the stamp by the public.

“We commend the efforts of Ian Somerhalder—working both as an individual and through the Ian Somerhalder Foundation—to save elephants and other charismatic species,” said John Calvelli, Executive Vice President for WCS’s Public Affairs Division. “His willingness to lend his invaluable support to the fight to strengthen federal conservation action to protect elephants and the world’s wildlife inspires others to join our cause.”

The following quotes are excerpts of Somerhalder’s testimony:

“There’s really only one word that can describe the situation of elephants in the wild today; they are in crisis. The characteristics that make elephants so iconic around the world – their beauty, majesty, and power – are precisely what make them so desirable to poachers. Quite frankly, there’s no way to overstate how catastrophic the last few years have been for elephants.

“When we see an elephant, we are inspired with a special sort of wonder and reverence. They are truly amazing animals. Elephants live in close-knit families and can only be separated by death or by capture. When an elephant dies, it is mourned and buried by other members of the tribe. They are the only mammals besides humans that are known to have rituals for death. Elephants have been observed responding to the distress of other humans and animals by protecting them or intervening in harmful situations.

“There is growing evidence that organizations like the Lord’s Resistance Army and al-Shabaab fund terrorist attacks, recruitment efforts, guns and explosives with the proceeds of illegal ivory sales. Decades of war and instability in Central Africa have created a power vacuum in which these actors are free to do more or less whatever they want, from poaching to illegal mining to enlisting child soldiers to trafficking in sex slaves.

“There is no reason for us to give up hope. The desperation and greed driving elephant poaching and illegal ivory sales can be reversed. There is ample evidence that funding conservation efforts has a significant and positive impact in protecting wildlife and the humans tasked with guarding them.

“The support of U.S. governmental agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service through the Multinational Species Conservation Funds and U.S. Agency for International Development play an absolutely essential role in supporting conservation forces internationally, from assisting in training eco-guards and supporting prosecutions to bolstering surveillance of key border crossings and investigating financial assets and much, much more.

“In my travels and interactions with people around the world, it has been made more than clear to me that animals like elephants, tigers, rhinoceroses, sea turtles, and the Great Apes illuminate the imagination and inspire compassion from all corners of the globe. The United States has an incredible opportunity to safeguard the long-term future of endangered species and landscapes while also investing in the political and economic stability of foreign nations.”

John Delaney – 718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org
Mary Dixon – 718-220-3711; mdixon@wcs.org
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org; facebook.com/TheWCS; youtube.com/user/WCSMedia; follow: @theWCS.

96 Elephants
WCS is leading global efforts to save Africa’s elephants and end the current poaching and ivory trafficking crisis. In September, WCS launched its 96 Elephants campaign www.96elephants.org ) to amplify and support the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) “Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants” by stopping the killing, stopping the trafficking, and stopping the demand. The WCS campaign focuses on: securing effective moratoria on domestic sales of ivory; bolstering elephant protection; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis.