STATEMENT OF SENATOR BARBARA BOXER
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
S. 1287, ASIAN ELEPHANT CONSERVATION ACT
S. 627, THE AFRICAN ELEPHANT CONSERVATION ACT
NOVEMBER 4, 1997

Mr. Chairman, I want to express my strong support for the Asian Elephant Conservation Act and the re-authorization of the African Elephant Conservation Act. On-the-ground support for conservation projects in the range states is a critical element in our efforts to preserve wild populations of elephants.

I am a staunch advocate for the protection of these largest of land mammals -- for the sake of the elephants and also for the local communities in Africa and Asia who derive millions of dollars in income from ecotourism. Tens of thousands of people travel to Asia and Africa each year to see these animals in their natural environment -- producing much needed income for communities in a humane and sustainable manner. However, that is not enough to protect these threatened species. We must take an active role in their protection, management and recovery in order to ensure that the species will thrive for years to come.

Mr. Chairman, we have seen first hand the devastation wrought by the international commercial trade in elephant ivory. Poachers killed these animals in incredible numbers to feed the worldwide demand for ivory. In just a decade's time, estimates show that African elephant populations dropped from 1.3 million to just 60,000. We cannot and should not repeat our error by reopening the ivory trade. That is why I was disappointed to learn that the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) recently down-listed elephant populations in southern Africa from Appendix I to Appendix II -- a decision that will most likely result in a renewed trade in ivory. I strongly supported our Administration in its position to oppose this down-listing.

While I believe that the vast majority of funds spent thus far by the Department of Interior Department through the African Elephant Conservation Act have been wisely distributed on anti-poaching projects and other sound activities, I am concerned about expenditures used to promote the ivory trade and trophy hunting of elephants. Americans do not support either practice, and their tax dollars should not be used for either purpose.

Mr. Chairman, as you may know, I authored a floor amendment to the fiscal year 1998 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that required that no tax dollars directly finance the trophy hunting of elephants or promote the trade of ivory. My amendment was adopted unanimously in the Senate by voice vote. Subsequently, USAID has assured me in writing that it will follow all of the mandates set forth in my amendment -- even if not adopted in the final conference agreement. I hope that the Department of Interior understands the message sent by the Senate and no longer funds any project that promotes ivory trading or trophy hunting of elephants.

Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing today. I look forward to working with you and my other colleagues to get this legislation passed promptly.