WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 10, 2014) – Today, Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and 96 Elephants Director John Calvelli testified before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment & Related Agencies to describe the need for continued U.S. government investment in international conservation programs within the FY15 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

Calvelli called for increases in funding for US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF), Wildlife Without Borders Global and Regional Programs, Office of Law Enforcement, and State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program; U.S. Forest Service’s International Program; and the U.S. National Park Service’s Office of International Affairs.

The following is an excerpt of his testimony:

“Internationally, by supporting conservation, the U.S. is increasing capacity and governance in developing nations and improving our own national security as a result. And these efforts are absolutely critical, as we have reached a crisis with regard to the trafficking of wildlife. US government estimates compiled by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) last summer show that illegal trade in endangered wildlife products, including elephant ivory, rhino horns, and turtle shells, is worth at least an estimated $7 to $10 billion annually. When the trade in illegal logging, plants and fisheries are also included, CRS states that some estimates exceed $100 billion, which would place the illegal wildlife trade among the 10 largest criminal activities worldwide. Because of the lucrative nature of this industry, evidence is showing increasingly that transnational criminal organizations and terrorist groups that are involved in other major trafficking operations – drugs, humans and weapons – are engaged in wildlife trafficking as well.

“On the ground in Africa and elsewhere, WCS scientists are seeing, first-hand, the devastating impact poaching is having on elephants, rhinos, tigers, and other iconic species. In 2012 alone, we estimate that 35,000 African elephants were killed for their ivory – that is an average of 96 elephants per day or one killed every 15 minutes. The subspecies of African forest elephants has seen a decline of 65 percent since 2002, dwindling to less than 80,000 today. Continued poaching at these rates may mean the extinction of forest elephants within a decade. Action must be taken now, so that we do not end up where we were with bison a hundred years ago. Although that story continues to be a happy one, there is no guarantee that story of the elephant will not, ultimately, be a tragedy.

“Conservation of public lands is an American tradition and, as far back as 1909, Theodore Roosevelt recognized that the management of our natural resources requires coordination between all nations. Continued investment in conservation will reaffirm our global position as a conservation leader, while improving our national security and building capacity and good governance in developing countries.”

For further information on this story, or to talk with John Calvelli, please contact Chip Weiskotten at 202-624-8172 or email cweiskotten@wcs.org.

Chip Weiskotten – 202-624-8172; cweiskotten@wcs.org
Mary Dixon – 347-840-1242; 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 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 sales of ivory; bolstering elephant protection; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis. www.96elephants.org