Statement of John W. Grandy, Humane Society
Elephant Conservation
November 4, 1997

Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for providing The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) with an opportunity to testify on S. 627, the African Elephant Reauthorization Act of 1997 and S. 1287, the Asian Elephant Conservation Act.

I am Dr. John W. Grandy, Senior Vice President for The HSUS, this nation's largest animal protection organization, which has more than 5 million members and constituents.

Mr. Chairman, I wish to begin by thanking Senator Jeffords for his leadership over the years to enact legislation that protects the world's dwindling populations of elephants, rhinos and tigers. He has performed an invaluable service to Americans and others throughout the world by introducing these bills.

The HSUS strongly supports the African Elephant Conservation Act and the Asian Elephant Conservation Act but maintains some reservations about the distribution of funds appropriated through Congress.

Elephant species were once the dominant herbivores on most of the Earth's continents. Today, due primarily to climate change, only two species remain: the Asian elephant (Elaphus maximus) and the African elephant (Loxodonta africana). Although the two species are not related at the generic level and do not exist on the same continent, they share two common threats to their survival: habitat destruction and poaching for commercial purposes. As a result of these threats, wild populations of both species have declined precipitously over the past two decades. Asian elephant populations have declined from 75,000 to between 35,000 and 45,000, while African elephant populations have declined from 1.3 million to between 286,234 and 543,475 today (IUCN/African Elephant Specialist Group estimate).

While steady progress is being made to secure and increase elephant habitat, the situation regarding poaching of African and Asian elephants has just taken a turn for the worse.

In June 1997, over the objections of the United States and more than twenty members of the U.S. Senate, the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) decided to reopen the international trade in elephants and their parts and products from three southern African nations. The decision allows Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to export live elephants and hunting trophies and, as early as March 1999, to sell stockpiled ivory to Japan if nine conditions are met to the satisfaction of the CITES Standing Committee. The decision also allows Zimbabwe, but not the others, to export ivory souvenirs and elephant hide. As a result, as of September 18th, live elephants, hunting trophies, and elephant hides may be imported to the U.S. as long as they are accompanied by a CITES export permit from one of the three aforementioned African countries. Under CITES, the U.S. government has no role in approving such imports. However, thanks to the African Elephant Conservation Act, ivory souvenirs are banned from import and hence, Americans at least are not contributing to the souvenir trade in elephant ivory.

The HSUS would like to take this opportunity to thank the 23 members of the Senate, including many members of this Subcommittee, for writing to Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt on June 2, 1997, urging the U.S. to oppose the down-listing of the African elephant. Unfortunately, as predicted in your letter to Secretary Babbitt, the decision taken by the Parties may have already led to a surge in poaching of both African and Asian elephants. In just the past four months:

In Ghana, two elephants were poached in Mole National Park. There had been no poaching in the Park since 1988. Source: Letter from B.K Volta-Tineh, Senior Wildlife Officer, Mole National Park, 28 August 1997.

In Kenya, as many as 40 elephants have been killed. Included are between six and fifteen elephants killed in the Mukukodo forest near Samuburu reserve and five elephants poached at Muge Ranch, a private reserve near Nairobi. Sourne: Associated Press, 2 October 1997; The Sunday Telegraph (London), 5 October 1997.

In Zimbabwe, six elephants were poached in July, as compared to an average of four per month in the six months prior to COP 10, according to Willis Makombe, acting head of the Department of National Parks and Wild Life Management. Source: AFP 14 September 1997.

In Namibia, at least two elephants were killed in the West Caprivi Game Park. Source: The Namibian, 23 July 1997.

In Zambia, twelve elephants have been poached in the lower Zambezi. Source: David Shepherd Conservation Foundation.

In the Central African Republic's Manavo Grounds St. Floris National Park, 95 elephants were killed by Sudanese poachers who carried the ivory to Sudan in a caravan of 114 camels. Source: International Fund for Animal Welfare, 29 October 1997; The Electronic Telegraph, 31 October 1997.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, forty Sudanese poaching camps were discovered in Garamba National Park and an aerial survey counted carcasses of 30 elephants. Source: International Fund for Animal Welfare, 29 October 1997.

In Egypt, ivory tusks are being offered for sale in Cairo and the claim is that they are from Sudan (there are no wild elephants in Sudan). Source: Care for the Wild International

In India, prior to 1990, 100 Asian elephants were poached per year, and this decreased to only 30 per year between 1990 and 1996 when the CITES ivory trade ban was in effect. But an estimated 150 elephants were killed in India in the first seven months of 1997, representing the death of about 10% of the breeding population. Sources: East Asian Conservation Centre and the Wildlife Protection Society of India; Associated Press, 31 May 1997.

In The Netherlands, five Chinese citizens, traveling from Nigeria to Hong Kong, were intercepted at the airport in Amsterdam carrying a "huge quantity" of ivory and hides of protected animals. Source: AFP, 19 August 1997.

In Taiwan, 130 kilograms of ivory were seized by police. The ivory was shipped from South Africa to Taiwan and was destined for Hong Kong and China. Source: CNA Daily English News Wire, 29 June 1997.

Mr. Chairman, these accounts are hauntingly reminiscent of the circumstances under which the African Elephant Conservation Act was passed. In 1987 when Congress first considered the Act, and in 1988 when the Act was passed, Americans had become alarmed by reports on the rapid decline of African elephant populations due to the ivory trade.

Elephants numbers had dropped from about 1.3 million in 1979 to only 700,000 by 1988 and were declining by about ten percent per year; by 1989 there were only about 600,000 elephants; today there are between 286,234 and 543,475 African elephants remaining, according to the IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group.

In 1986 approximately 100,000 elephants were killed to satisfy the worldwide demand for ivory and at least 10,000 of those were used to supply the ivory for jewelry and other trinkets purchased by American consumers.

Elephants had virtually disappeared from some areas of Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, and Zaire. In the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, elephants declined by 50 percent between 1977 and 1986; in Tsavo National Park in Kenya there was a 75 percent decline between 1972 and 1988.

The average weight of a tusk being exported from Africa had declined from 35 pounds in 1979 to only 13 pounds in 1988, indicating that poachers were turning to younger and younger elephants, a particular concern since elephants do not reach sexual maturity until their early teens and then reproduce very slowly. In 1988, about 10-15 percent of tusks exported weighed less than 1 pound -- tusks of infant elephants. Entire generations of older elephants were being wiped out by the ivory trade.

The Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) had, in 1985, instituted a "CITES Ivory Control System" to regulate the ivory trade through marking of ivory and establishment of country-specific ivory export quotas. However, by 1988 the System was clearly failing to halt poaching and illegal trade because it was not implemented and enforced by CITES Paries. Experts agreed that about 80 percent of ivory in trade in 1988 was taken from poached elephants.

The prices paid for ivory increased from $2.25 per pound in 1960 to $68 per pound in 1988, indicating that ivory was being used as a commodity, like gold and silver, as a hedge against inflation. Elephants were being victimized by an upward spiral of supply and demand: the higher the price, the more elephants were slaughtered.

Mr. Chairman, as you know, the African Elephant Conservation Act was passed primarily to address the ivory trade that was clearly, irrefutably driving elephants to extinction.

The Act, while expressing a desire to give the CITES Ivory Control System a chance to work, put in place a mechanism whereby the United States could unilaterally decide to stop the importation of ivory into the United States if it was discovered that this System was failing to control the ivory trade. In June 1989, eight months after the Act was passed, the Bush Administration imposed a ban on the importation to the U.S. of African elephant ivory under the provisions of the Act. At the time, the U.S. was one of the major markets for elephant ivory; about 30 percent of the ivory in trade was consumed by Americans.

This preceded by four months, and made a significant political contribution to, a decision by the more than 100 Parties to CITES, including the majority of African elephant range states, to ban the international commercial trade in ivory in October 1989. The reason that the Parties decided to ban the international commercial trade in ivory was that, despite an internationally coordinated CITES Ivory Control System, the trade proved uncontrollable and was driving elephants to extinction. The ivory trade was uncontrollable because it is highly lucrative for dealers who are highly organized, heavily armed, and well-connected to politicians who look the other way for a price; because elephants are largely unprotected in most of Africa and are so easily poached; and because Africa's destitute poverty makes it easy for dealers to find people willing to risk their lives to poach elephants. The ivory trade harmed both elephants and local people, while making a few ivory dealers and corrupt politicians rich.

Mr. Chairman, The HSUS sadly wonders how many more African and Asian elephants will be lost before it becomes clear that the down-listing the three populations of the African elephant under CITES was a mistake?

An additional concern is that, once ivory from the ivory stockrooms of Botswana and Zimbabwe is sold to Japan, there will be room for new ivory from culled elephants. Both Botswana and Zimbabwe claim enormous problems with human-elephant conflict and growing elephant populations which are causing people to ask for a political solution to crop-raiding elephants. In culling operations, entire elephant families are gunned down; traumatized infants are pulled away from their dying mothers and sold to circuses and zoos. The ivory is stockpiled, hide sold to make shoes and briefcases, and the meat is sold to crocodile farmers. As a result of the CITES decision, hides and infant elephants resulting from such culls could be imported to the United States. The HSUS opposes elephant culling as a means to control elephant populations and suggests a humane alternative, which we will address in the second half of our testimony.

Although the United States is not a member of the CITES Standing Committee (which will be evaluating whether the nine criteria that would allow Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe to export ivory from their stockpiles to Japan have been met), the Senate should urge the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, to take whatever measures are possible to ensure that: 1) the CITES Panel of Experts confirms that enforcement and ivory trade control deficiencies are met by both the exporting countries and Japan; 2) all African and Asian elephant range states have been given an opportunity to comment before any commercial ivory export is permitted; 3) any mechanisms developed for re-listing the three populations of the species on Appendix I can be implemented quickly in the event of an increase in elephant poaching; 4) the Interpol Wildlife Crime Subgroup is involved in monitoring illegal ivory trade; and 5) the process is transparent and participatory.

Mr. Chairman, The HSUS also fully supports the portion the African Elephant Conservation Act that has set up the African Elephant Conservation Fund to support projects on research, conservation, management, or protection of African elephants. However, we have concerns about some of the types of projects funded under the Act which we will elaborate on in detail in our testimony. But first, I would like to describe for you some of the conservation, protection and research projects related to African elephants that are currently funded by The HSUS.

In 1993, we provided a $10,000 grant to the Owens Foundation for Wildlife Conservation for their work on the North Luangwa Conservation Project (NLCP) in Zambia and we have continued to leverage about $30,000 for the Foundation each year through private granting agencies. The HSUS considers the NLCP to be a model program for combining wildlife conservation with development of rural African communities without resorting to consumptive use of wildlife.

In 1986, Mark and Delia Owens established the NLCP to rehabilitate, conserve and develop the 2,400 square mile North Luangwa National Park in Zambia. At that time, 1000 elephants were being killed in the Park each year by commercial meat and ivory poachers. In the previous 15 years, up to 100,000 elephants had been poached in the Luangwa Valley. Wild fires set by poachers had burned over 80% of the Park's vegetation every year. If left unprotected, North Luangwa would be sterilized by 1996.

The Zambian government had limited resources to protect or develop the Park. Therefore, the Owenses' first priority was to decrease poaching by improving the efficiency of the government Game Scouts. New equipment, housing, training and incentives were provided to the Scouts. After working closely with these men for years, the North Luangwa Scouts have been declared the best in Zambia.

At the same time the Owenses developed a plan to involve the local people in the conservation of their greatest resource, their wildlife. Poaching was the primary industry in the area, providing more jobs and more sources of protein than any other. Therefore, the Owenses began a Community Development Program of the NLCP that established small sustainable businesses that offer basic goods and services to the local people and provide alternative legal jobs to poachers. These services are not a free hand out. Each business is based on the free enterprise system and the initial start-up loan must be repaid to the project so that new businesses can be started in the village.

In the past, many of the villagers could obtain ground corn, their staple diet, only by trading poached meat for it. Now the NLCP grinding mills provide this service for pennies and, at the same time, offer employment to millers, mechanics and bookkeepers. Villagers used to poach bush meat to trade it for cooking oil, a much prized commodity in rural Africa. NLCP has taught them to grow sunflower seeds and press oil using simple seed presses. Again, poaching is replaced by sustainable legal trade. Other cottage industries that have provided jobs, food or services to the local people are carpentry shops, sewing co-operatives and cobbler shops. In some villages, small shops are opened to provide simple goods to villagers such as matches, soap and salt. Farmers are assisted with seed loans, transportation and technical assistance. More than 2000 families in the NLCP target area are benefiting from NLCP's Community Development and Agricultural Assistance Programs.

The Owenses established the NLCP Conservation Education Program in fourteen remote villages near the National Park. Many students had never seen a color photograph and schools lacked the most basic supplies. The NLCP Education Officer visits schools monthly, weather permitting, offering a 500 volume mobile library, curriculum guidelines, school supplies, wildlife slide shows (powered by a gasoline generator), lectures, projects and contests. Forty-eight American schools participate in a conservation oriented exchange program with NLCP's students, exchanging letters, art work, reports and essays. American schools sent school supplies, books and donate magazines. These Zambian students will not grow up to be poachers.

NLCP's Rural Health and Family Planning Program teaches hygiene, first aid, preventative medicine, family planning and advanced clinical techniques to village medics. NLCP has trained and equipped 48 "Traditional Birth Attendants" to assist the pregnant women in the villages near the Park. The Attendants also teach AIDS prevention, early childhood development and nutrition to the women of their villages.

The ultimate goal of the NLCP is to ensure that tourism development in North Luangwa National Park will have a low impact on the environment and return revenue to the local villagers. Once the local villagers are benefiting legally from the National Park through tourism, there will be even less incentive to poach. The Owens have worked with the Zambian government to develop a plan for tourism in the Park.

The NLCP has been very successful. When the Owenses arrived, 1000 elephants were being poached each year. Between September of 1994 and June 1997 not one had been poached. However, after nearly six years of almost complete protection, the elephant population of North Luangwa has not increased. This argues strongly for continued protection for the African elephant under a CITES moratorium on trade in elephant parts and continued funding by the U.S. government for research, management, protection, and conservation of African elephant populations. Twenty elephants have been collared with radio transmitters and aerial data is being obtained to chart their movements, habitat usage, and more.

Likewise, the people near the Park no longer have to poach to feed their families. Over 2000 families, many of whom were once involved with poaching, now have legal, sustainable jobs. Leaders from villages outside the NLCP range are now coming to the Owenses and requesting their advice on how to start programs such as those implemented by the NLCP.

It is sad to note that, although for many years the Owens Foundation has applied for funding for the NLCP from the African Elephant Conservation Fund, and has apparently met all of the criteria for funding under the Act, the project has inexplicably not been funded to date. The NLCP operates on a comparatively small budget of approximately $500,000 per year, which is provided by the Frankfurt Zoological Society of Germany and the Owens Foundation for Wildlife Conservation. This is a successful project, which is conserving wildlife, including elephants and helping people, is worthy of funding under the Act.

In January 1997, HSUS along with Humane Society International (HSI), signed a US$1 million, five-year agreement with the National Parks Board (NPB) of South Africa to conduct a study on the use of immuno-contraception as a means for controlling reproduction in elephants and humanely controlling the size and growth of elephant populations. Additionally, under the agreement, The HSUS/HSI will develop, promote and conduct ecotourism programs in South Africa. The NPB will undertake to extend the range of elephants in South Africa and will use the contraception program to control elephant population sizes if it is shown by research to be safe, feasible, economic, and appropriate. Additionally, the NPB will examine and implement other means of reducing conflicts between elephants and other wildlife and human interests, including fencing, and translocating elephants to other parks and protected areas in South Africa.

The elephant contraception experiment is being conducted in Kruger National Park, which is home to over 8300 elephants. Within the Park's fenced boundaries, rangers have culled about 600 elephants each year in an attempt to maintain a population of 7500 elephants. But widespread opposition to culling has led South Africa to consider alternative means for controlling elephant populations and providing more habitat for elephants. In May 1995, after a public debate on the Kruger National Park's elephant management policy, the NPB undertook a review of that policy. The NPB announced that no elephants would be killed in Kruger National Park in 1996, although the NPB retains its policy to allow elephants to be killed when necessary as a last resort. The moratorium has been extended through 1997.

The HSUS/HSI is sponsoring the program which is being conducted by a team of scientists from Zoo Montana, the Medical College of Ohio, the University of Georgia, and the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, HSUS consultant for contraception and director of science and conservation biology at Zoo Montana, is leading the scientific research team. These organizations have joined with the South African NPB to administer a contraceptive vaccine to elephants in Kruger National Park.

This vaccine, the PZP (porcine zona pellucida) immunocontraceptive vaccine, was first developed in the 1970's, and works by stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies that block pregnancy. Since its development, PZP has been tested and adopted by the National Park Service for management of wild horses on Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland; successfully tested by The HSUS and the Bureau of Land Management on wild horses in Nevada; successfully tested by The HSUS in collaboration with the National Park Service on white-tailed deer at Fire island National Seashore, New York; and is currently being used on over 90 species in 60 zoos and aquaria throughout the world.

Before allowing this technique to be tested on wild, free-ranging African elephants, the research team vaccinated three female zoo elephants with PZP. These elephants, which were not mated, showed the strong immune response to the vaccine that is required for successful contraception. Before taking the vaccine into the field, the research team also showed that antibodies produced in response to the PZP vaccine would prevent sperm from attaching to elephant eggs in the laboratory.

Between October 2 and 12, 1996, the research team and staff from Kruger National Park captured, radiocollared, and treated with PZP 21 adult female elephants in Kruger. Twenty additional animals were radiocollared but left untreated to act as controls. Before treatment, non-pregnancy of each animal in the study was confirmed with ultrasound. In November 1996, the 21 experimental animals were successfully given booster shots using PZP-containing darts fired from an airborne helicopter. The research team delivered a third shot to treated elephants in June 1997. We emphasize that, for the purposes of this research, once the elephants have been marked the vaccine can be delivered without ever capturing them again.

Unfortunately, there has been some confusion between The HSUS/HSI sponsored immunocontraception project and a concurrent elephant contraception project being carried out in Kruger National Park by a German team from the Institute for Zoological and Wildlife Research in Berlin. This team placed implants containing a six-month supply of the steroid hormone estrogen in the ears of a sample of adult female elephants. The HSUS/HSI and our research team strongly opposed this project, because, among other reasons, we believed that the estrogen implants would lead to prolonged and sustained estrus in implanted females. We have received preliminary reports from our colleagues at the University of Pretoria that just such an effect is being seen among the elephants treated by the German research team. We stress, however, that no such indications have been reported for the PZP-treated elephants.

By early 1998, our research team will carry out pregnancy tests on the PZP-treated and untreated control elephants to determine the effectiveness of the PZP immunocontraceptive vaccine.

Should the vaccine prove effective as an elephant contraceptive, there are several reasons that it could be a useful management tool for free-ranging elephants. First, it can be delivered directly from the air without capturing the elephant. Second, the vaccine itself should be relatively inexpensive to produce. Third, non-pregnant females can be distinguished from the air with 85-90% accuracy by the age of calves accompanying them, a technique whose effectiveness was confirmed with ultrasound during the initial captures. Clearly, further research would be required to refine the vaccine, assess its effects on elephant health, reproduction, and behavior, and develop efficient techniques for delivering the vaccine to significant numbers of elephants.

Nevertheless, The HSUS/HSI feels that the PZP immunocontraceptive vaccine offers the promise of a practical, cost-efficient, humane alternative to the barbaric practice of destroying these magnificent, sensitive, and complex animals.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, in reviewing the African Elephant Conservation Fund, The HSUS is distressed to learn that monies from the fund have been used to support or enable the resumption in the international trade in ivory and elephant trophy hunting.

Ivory trading--

Funds provided to the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group (AESG) were used to support, in part, production of the widely criticized 1995 report, "Four Years After the CITES Ban: Illegal Killing of Elephants, Ivory Trade and Stockpiles," which claimed that since the CITES ivory trade ban did not stop poaching completely, it therefore had failed.

Funds provided to WWF enabled them to open an office of TRAFFIC in East/Southern Africa and to assist that office in the development of a database on ivory stockpiles. The ivory stockpile database allowed TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa to develop of an "ivory stock database management system" that was used by the government of Zimbabwe to support its 1997 CITES proposal to resume trade in elephants from Zimbabwe. In addition, the Director of this TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa was one of the primary authors of the aforementioned controversial report, "Four Years After the CITES Ban."

It should be noted that, since 1989, the U.S. has supported the CITES ban on the international trade in ivory. Ironically, this negotiating position may have been undermined by these products of grants provided under the African Elephant Conservation Act. in addition, it should be noted that IUCN already receives funding in the amount of US$1 million per year from the State Department, which is as much as the annual U.S. contribution to the CITES treaty.

Trophy Hunting--

Safari Club International (SCI) received an $85,000 grant "to provide training in rural communities in the setting and monitoring of sustainable off-take hunting quotas, especially for elephants" (quote from the grant agreement). The project Is a component of Zimbabwe's CAMPFIRE program which is based primarily on elephant trophy hunting. CAMPFIRE also is one of the most vociferous opponents of the CITES ivory trade ban and worked diligently to undermine the U.S. negotiating position on elephants at the June CITES meeting. Finally, it is important to note that when this African Elephant Conservation Act grant was provided to SCI in 1995, the CAMPFIRE program had already received at least $5 million in aid from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USMD). This is five times the amount the African Elephant Conservation Fund receives annually from Congress. The HSUS considers USAID's and the African Elephant Conservation Fund's contributions to CAMPFIRE to be a waste of American taxpayer dollars.

SCI received a $36,000 grant "to promote better wildlife management in the Republic of Tanzania through the use of standardized quotas that is designed to increase trophy hunting quality" (quote from the grant agreement).

SCI received a $84,240 grant to conduct a survey of Tanzania's elephant populations because "better wildlife management will produce better animals that are available for trophy hunting" (quote from the grant agreement). A survey was also necessary to fulfill the requirements of the Endangered Species Act for the importation to the U.S. of elephant trophies from Tanzania. A second grant was given to SCI for "Phase II" of this project.

Mr. Chairman, elephant trophy hunting is opposed by 84% of Americans (according to December 1996 nationwide poll conducted by Penn & Schoen Associates Inc.). The same percentage of Americans oppose U.S. foreign assistance being used for this purpose. None of the scarce funds available under the African Elephant Conservation Act should be used to promote or enable elephant trophy hunting. Trophy hunting is an industry like any other that should not receive government subsidies in the guise of conservation.

The HSUS is concerned that funds available under the Asian Elephant Conservation Act will be used to promote consumptive use of Asian elephants, including trade and trophy hunting. There is certainly a demand for live Asian elephants in the public display industry, for use as breeders, performers or for display. Asian elephant ivory is widely traded in Asia. And, although the import of Asian elephant hunting trophies is currently not allowed, SCI has urged the Service to allow the importation of trophies of even rarer species such as cheetahs, a critically endangered species with fewer than 10,000 individuals remaining in the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently made a non-detriment finding for the import of cheetah trophies from Namibia, although it has not yet issued any import permits for such trophies. The HSUS speculates that if the Service supports trophy hunting of this rare species, Asian elephants cannot be far off.

RECOMMENDATION

The Senate should amend the African Elephant Conservation Act and Asian Elephant Conservation Act, or provide guidance to the Department of the Interior, to ensure that funds from the Acts do not support projects or programs: a) that advocate or enable the ivory trade; b) that are based on, promote, or enable elephant trophy hunting or other elephant-based industries; or c) that promote or enable captive breeding of elephants other than for release in the wild.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, for this opportunity to share with you our views about the African Elephant Conservation Act and the Asian Elephant Conservation Act.