WCS Testifies in Support of California Ivory Ban
NEW YORK (March 10, 2015) – The following testimony was submitted today by Dr. James Deutsch, WCS Vice President of Conservation Strategy, before the California Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife committee:
“Good Afternoon. My name is James Deutsch. I am the Vice President of Conservation Strategy for the Wildlife Conservation Society, a New York-based global conservation organization. Chairman Levine, Vice Chair Bigelow and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today regarding the plight of African elephants due to demand for ivory, and the important role of AB 96 to improve their conservation status in the wild.
“The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is the largest land animal extant in the world today, and a critical part of our natural heritage. African elephants act as ecosystem engineers, opening pathways through the landscape, maintaining mineral-rich clearings on which gorillas and many other species depend. In addition, they are a major part of the tourist draw to many countries in Africa, so are important for local economies and jobs.
“Yet African elephants are being killed illegally at an enormous rate for their ivory. All international commercial trade in ivory has been illegal since 1989, when the African elephant was uplisted to Appendix I under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). African elephants are also protected in the U.S. under the Endangered Species Act and the African Elephant Conservation Act.
“Following the 1989 CITES ban, the illegal killing of elephants declined and populations started to recover. In recent years, however, the illegal killing and ivory trade have increased dramatically due to the rise in disposable income in East Asia, coupled with increasing economic and transportation links between Africa and Asia.
“In 2012, some 35,000 African elephants were killed, an average of 96 elephants per day, representing the worst mass slaughter of elephants in any year since the 1989 international ban. African forest elephants (L. a. cyclotis) in particular have been devastated by poaching and have declined by about 65 percent since 2002. At this rate, African forest elephants could effectively be extinct within the next 10 to 15 years.
“As one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, the illegal wildlife trade ranks fourth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people, and arms. Increasing consumer demand for carved or worked ivory, particularly in Asia, but also in other parts of the world including here in the U.S., is causing the price of ivory to skyrocket, thereby driving the illegal ivory trade and the mass killings of elephants in Africa. Today’s ivory traffickers are primarily well-organized syndicates that operate as transnational criminal networks and often participate in other illegal activities, including trafficking in narcotics and weapons, and some have links with terrorist networks. Today’s ivory poachers are armed with the likes of assault rifles, rocket launchers, night vision goggles and even helicopters. One of the worst massacres in recent years took place in May 2013 in one of the sites where we work -- Dzanga Bai World Heritage Site in CAR where 26 elephants were slaughtered in one attack by heavily armed poachers.
“A major challenge to halting the illegal ivory trade is the lack of effective law enforcement controls and high levels of corruption along the trade chain from Africa, through the transit countries, and to the end consumer markets. It is estimated that less than 10% of illegal ivory is seized at a country’s borders. Once it is inside those borders, it becomes nearly impossible to distinguish from legal ivory, especially worked ivory such as jewelry and trinkets which comprise a significant portion of the illegal ivory trade. To ensure a future for Africa’s elephants, we must stop the killing, stop the trafficking and stop the demand.
“Within the U.S., research has shown California has one of the largest markets for ivory. While the new U.S. federal ivory ban makes it illegal to import, export and trade elephant ivory across state lines with only a few exceptions, the need for state level bans remains to stop the trade at that point of retail sale. Last year, New York and New Jersey passed strong ivory bans and several other states in addition to California are pursuing similar bans this year.
“Through AB 96, California has the opportunity to help shut down this illegal trade locally and lead the way during this critical time for elephants. Other key consumer countries are watching closely. Action needs to be taken now if we hope to save elephants for future generations.”
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
MISSION: 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<http://www.wcs.org>; http://www.facebook.com/TheWCS; http://www.youtube.com/user/WCSMedia Follow: @thewcs.
WCS is leading global efforts to save Africa’s elephants and end the current poaching and ivory trafficking crisis. In September 2013, 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<http://www.96elephants.org>