7 JULY 1998

Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. Thank you for providing The Humane Society of the United States with an opportunity to testify on S. 263, the Bear Protection Act; S. 361 and H.R. 2807, the Rhino and Tiger Product Labeling Acts; S. 2094, the Fish and Wildlife Revenue Enhancement Act of 1998; and H.R. 3113, the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Reauthorization Act of 1998.

I am Wayne Pacelle, Senior Vice President for Communications and Government Affairs for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), this nation's largest animal protection organization, with more than 6.2 million members and constituents.

Mr. Chairman, the bills under discussion today each focus on the need to stem the tide of illegal trade in wildlife. The bill relating to the disposal of stockpiles of parts and products of endangered and threatened animals demonstrates the enormous magnitude of the illegal wildlife trade in this country. The bills relating to the conservation of rhinos and tigers, and the trade in products made from them and other threatened and endangered species, are the latest in a series of domestic and international steps to stop the illegal trade in products of these animals, which have been driven to the brink of extinction by this trade. The bill relating to the bear parts trade seeks to stem the precipitous decline of Asian bear species, whose parts are traded globally; the bill also proactively seeks to protect America's bears from the same strong markets that have nearly wiped out Asian bear populations.

The Bear Protection Act (S. 263)

Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the millions of members and constituents of The HSUS and the 127 undersigned organizations, including organizations from every state represented by Members of this Committee, I wish to state our strong support for the Bear Protection Act.

This anti-poaching legislation introduced by Senator Mitch McConnell is an effort to eliminate the incentive to kill bears illegally and profit by the sale of their internal organs, particularly the gallbladder and bile. S. 263 represents a thoughtful, pro-active approach to wildlife protection that will contribute to the long-term conservation of the world's remaining bear species.

As the Committee surely knows, the Bear Protection Act has a remarkable base of support in both the Senate and the House, reflected not only in sheer numbers, but also in the bipartisan nature of cosponsorship. In addition to lead sponsor Senator McConnell, 24 Republicans and 29 Democrats have cosponsored the bill - a total of 54 Senators representing a majority of the Senate. Specifically, six Republicans and seven Democrats, two-thirds of this Committee, have cosponsored the bill. Companion legislation in the House introduced by Congressman John Porter (R-IL) has amassed 135 cosponsors thus far on a similar bipartisan basis.

The Bear Protection Act creates sound national policy against the trade in bear gallbladders and bile. The absence of federal legislation prohibiting trade in bear parts allows an interstate and international illegal trade to flourish. It is wrong for this nation to allow poachers and smugglers to exploit the current inconsistencies in state laws and profit from the sale of bear parts. The Bear Protection Act will assist state and federal wildlife enforcement efforts. If enacted, the legislation would:

The United States has an especially important role to play in bear conservation since it is both a bear range state and a nation whose citizens unfortunately consume bear parts. Senator McConnell has wisely crafted a bill that focuses narrowly on a specific problem in global bear conservation: the spreading, highly lucrative trade in bear viscera such as the gallbladders and bile. The demand for bear parts and derivatives in traditional medicine and, increasingly, luxury cosmetic items, continues to put enormous pressure on endangered Asian bear populations. In an effort to supply this huge market, traders now are also targeting America's bear populations.

Although it is difficult to accurately quantify levels of the trade in bear parts, especially since it is an illegal enterprise in most states, there is a clear indication that bear poaching and the trade in bear gallbladders and bile are widespread. In 1994, Christopher Servheen, representing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the IUCN/SSC Bear Specialist Group, noted "There is a serious impact on global bear populations from the trade in bear parts" (Proceedings of the International Symposium on the Trade of Bear Parts for Medicinal Use, Washington, 1994). He also noted in a 1995 statement that, "As Asian bear populations decline and wild bear bile and other bear parts become more difficult to obtain, sources of bear parts outside Asia will be developed by traders and others willing to make significant profits." Dr. Ed Espinoza, deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Oregon contends, "Right now the bear population is healthy.... But the possibility exists that, if we don't control the trade in bear parts, we could lose the entire population" (The Idaho Statesman, September 17, 1995).

The 1995 World Wildlife Fund annual report echoes these warnings: "A recent TRAFFIC study reported that American black bear populations are targets of illegal traders in bear parts. The booming medicinal market for these parts, where a single bear gallbladder can be sold for as much as $11,000 in some Far Eastern markets, has already sent Asian bear populations into decline and is causing traders to turn increasingly to American black bears. A complex patchwork of state laws in the United States makes it almost impossible to regulate the trade."

All eight extant bear species are listed under the Appendices to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus), sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), giant panda (Ailuripoda melanoleuca) and some subspecies of brown bear (Ursus arctos) are listed on CITES Appendix I, thus prohibiting international commercial trade in their parts and products. Other species, including the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) and the American black bear (Ursus americanus), are listed on Appendix II which means some international trade in their parts and derivatives can occur, under very specific regulations.

The primary reason for the 1992 CITES listing of the American black bear was the "look-alike" problem -- it is impossible to visually distinguish the gallbladder of, for example, an endangered Asiatic black bear from an American black bear. The Trip Report from a December 1997 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delegation that visited Korea, states, "...according to the Service's National Forensics Laboratory, it is still technically impossible to determine the species of bear from a sample of gallbladder. Such purported results would not hold up in court." This creates a significant enforcement loophole which facilitates the illegal trade in bear parts and products. The Bear Protection Act would close this loophole and assist state and foreign bear conservation enforcement efforts.

State Support And The Need For A Federal Law

That "complex patchwork of state laws in the United States" addressing the bears parts trade, to which the WWF report referred, is a major factor complicating enforcement. Thirty-two states ban the commercialization of bear parts, nine states allow trade only of gallbladders taken from outside the state, seven states allow commerce regardless of origin, and two states without bear populations have no regulations at all. This current system allows poachers to kill bears (illegally) in one state where the sale of bear parts is prohibited, and to sell the parts "legally" in another state -- or ship them out of the country -- completely circumventing the first state's prohibition on sale of bear parts. State wildlife agencies and district attorneys' offices are hindered in investigating and prosecuting bear poaching and gallbladder trade cases by this state-to-state inconsistency.

In 1995 and 1996, conservation organizations inquired of all fifty state wildlife departments whether they considered the current patchwork of state laws regarding the trade in bear parts to be a problem and whether they would support the pending federal legislation. Over thirty state wildlife agency representatives and/or wildlife law enforcement personnel responded that this legal disparity makes wildlife law enforcement difficult and endorsed a uniform legal framework to prohibit the trade in bear viscera.

The responses were incorporated into a report in April 1996, by the HSUS entitled The American Bear Parts Trade: A State-by State Analysis. Captain Dave Tyler, Division of Enforcement, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, for instance, replied that an interstate ban on bear viscera trade "would help because it is hard if trade is legal in one state and illegal in another." James Timmerman, Jr. Ph.D., Director of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources concurred: "The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources would certainly support national legislation that protects the American black bear from the gallbladder trade. A Federal law prohibiting the commercial sale, import and export of bear gallbladders would be most helpful in protecting the American bear population from this illegal activity....I support this initiative and am very supportive of anything that can improve enforcement in all areas."

Even representatives in those states without existing state legislation to control the trade in bear parts acknowledge the problem of legal inconsistency. Ray Lyon, Enforcement Assistant Chief, Special Operations with Idaho Fish & Game noted in a 1995 letter, "We realize that there is some illegal killing of bears promoted by our laws." In fact, a 1992 Alaska court case shows exactly how the current legal inconsistency makes wildlife enforcement difficult, if not impossible, and interferes with other states' efforts to manage their wildlife. An individual in Alaska, where state regulation 5 AAC 92.200 prohibits purchase of any part of a bear, was offered bear parts by a man in Idaho where commerce is legal. She agreed to buy them, sent payment, and was arrested when she went to the airport to collect her purchase. Although all of the Alaska resident's actions related to this unlawful purchase were committed within the state, the case was ultimately dismissed because the "legal site" of the purchase is not defined.

The Alaska Attorney General's office concluded that this decision "will lead to the inevitable result of encouraging individuals to unlawfully take bears in Alaska, take them outside to places like Idaho where the sale of bear parts is still legal, and sell them to purchasers in Alaska through out-of-state strawmen. This is the very kind of conduct the legislature and Board of Game intended to prevent....This does not further the administration of justice."

This case in Alaska is not an isolated incident, although statewide investigations and prosecutions have varying levels of success. Additional bear poaching and gallbladder trading operations have been uncovered nationwide. Bears are being targeted and killed specifically for their parts and no additional, expensive, government-funded studies are necessary to see that this is a problem. The following examples provide illustration of bear poaching and gallbladder trade cases across the country:

Passage of the BPA will create a uniform legal framework that closes the loophole of disparate state laws, thereby contributing to a reduction in the number of bears poached globally to supply the trade, and facilitating the wildlife enforcement efforts of dedicated state fish and game personnel.

The Bear Protection Act Would Have A Positive International Impact

Of course, the illegal bear parts trade is a global problem with the most serious potential impact facing endangered bear populations outside the United States. The confusion caused by, and easy circumvention of, state laws, provide cover for continued illegal commerce in the gallbladders of Asian bears whose populations have nearly disappeared. The enforcement complications of the legal status quo also allow traders outside the U.S. to sell endangered bear parts under the guise that they are from legally taken North American bears. By prohibiting the import and export of bear parts and derivatives, Senator McConnell's legislation will help conserve these endangered Asian bear populations.

For example, Mr. Sang Do Lee, Director and Senior Prosecutor with the South Korean Environmental Crime Division, told a US Fish and Wildlife Service delegation that prosecutors "assume that the bear galls [entering the Republic of Korea] from the U.S. come from legally hunted bears." Since 1991, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has issued 19 permits for export of bear gallbladders and bile. Only 1 permit (for a single gallbladder to Japan) was not for forensic analysis, scientific research, or return of parts used as evidence in wildlife cases. The FWS 1997 Korea Trip report adds: "Mr. Lee wishes the U.S. Government would put tougher controls on smuggling out of the United States....Lee knows of no other species where there is an illegal trade problem comparable to that of bear gall; bear gall is small, profitable, and easy to smuggle."

Enactment of the Bear Protection Act will prevent those attempting to sell endangered Asian bear parts in other countries such as China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere from falsely claiming they are from legally taken American bears. The fact that no gallbladders, bile, or derivatives will be able to leave the U.S. legally will facilitate the successful prosecution of such individuals.

Passage will also send a strong message to poachers and profiteers that the United States intends to continue its leadership role in global species conservation, including our international obligations under CITES. At the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties last summer in Zimbabwe, the United States co-authored a Resolution on "Conservation of and Trade in Bears." The Resolution, passed unanimously, begins by:

"NOTING that the continued illegal trade in parts and derivatives of bear species undermines the effectiveness of the Convention and that if CITES Parties and States not-party do not take action to eliminate such trade, poaching may cause declines of wild bears that could lead to the extirpation of certain populations or even species."

The resolution then:

"URGES all Parties, particularly bear range and consuming countries, to take immediate action in order to demonstrably reduce the illegal trade in bear parts and derivatives by the 11th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties, by: a) confirming, adopting or improving their national legislation to control the import and export of bear parts and derivatives, ensuring that the penalties for violations are sufficient to deter illegal trade."

The Bear Protection Act is national legislation that meets this international goal.

The Bear Protection Act has severe impacts only for poachers and smugglers. It will not affect a state's ability to decide whether bear hunting can occur within the state, how long the hunt season can last, what the bag limit for the season will be, or by what methods bear hunting can take place. Nothing in the bill compromises a lawful hunter's ability to kill bears in accordance with these state regulations. In fact, of the 27 states that have bear hunting seasons, over two-thirds of them, 19 states, also ban bear gallbladder commercialization with no conflict.

Nor should it hinder those who practice traditional medicine. According to both the EarthCare Society and Association of Chinese Medicine (two prominent Hong-Kong non-governmental organizations), there are at least 54 herbal alternatives to bear bile in its various medicinal applications. There are also synthetic alterative remedies. Word Fei-Cheung, Assistant Manager of the London-based Institute of Chinese Medicine told the CITES Standing Committee meeting in Rome in 1996, "We are as aware as anybody else of the threat to endangered species caused by the unscrupulous people who trade in the products of species such as the tiger, the bear and the rhinoceros. Indeed, we condemn these practices just as strong as the international conservation community ...It is vital that the trade in these products is stopped forever, if we are to save these species."

The 105th Congress has an historic opportunity to enact legislation that will contribute to ensuring a stable future for these species across the globe. Anyone who is strongly opposed to the illegal poaching of bears should support S. 263. The world sadly watched for decades as the trade in rhino horn and tiger bone, along with habitat destruction, nearly wiped out these species throughout their range. Now, bear habitat is being destroyed and smugglers are trading in their gallbladders. There is no reason for the world's bears to risk a similar fate as rhinos and tigers. There is no reason to wait until all eight species are in complete peril to ban the commercialization of bear viscera.

The Fish and Wildlife Revenue Enhancement Act of 1998 (S. 2094)

The HSUS strongly supports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Division of Law Enforcement and regularly asks Congress to appropriate more funds toward the Division's activities. The HSUS supports the mission of the National Wildlife Property Repository to include forfeited and abandoned wildlife parts and products as part of a wildlife trade education kit distributed to museums, schools and other organizations. We also support the mission of the National Eagle Repository to distribute eagle carcasses to Native Americans for religious and ceremonial purposes.

We commend Senator Allard for seeking ways by which to enhance the flow of funds to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Division of Law Enforcement. However, The HSUS' has the following concerns about the proposed amendments to the Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act (S. 2094):

Rather than pursue this legislation, The HSUS urges the Repository to adopt a "users pay" approach to the distribution of the education kits, to cut back significantly on the number of items stored in the Repository, and to hold a public event to destroy all surplus items in order to educate the public about the harm caused by the wildlife trade.

That said, with the legislation expected to advance, we suggest that the following changes to S. 2094 would improve the bill considerably:

Explanation: When species listed on CITES Appendix II are imported without legitimate CITES export permits from the country of origin it means that the State of export has not verified that the export is in conformance with CITES Article IV, that is: (1) it means that the export of the wildlife could have been detrimental to the survival of the species; and (2) it means that the specimen could have been obtained in contravention of the laws of that State for the protection of fauna and flora. The Service should not promote or engage in the sale of such wildlife specimens, which could be detrimental to wild populations of the species concerned and which could undermine wildlife protection laws of other countries.

When specimens of a species listed on CITES Appendix III are imported without a legitimate CITES export permit or "certificate of origin," it means that the State of export has not verified that the export is in conformance with CITES Article V, that is, it means that the export of the wildlife could have been in contravention of the laws of that State for the protection of wild fauna and flora.

The bill should explicitly state that none of the items sold will be species that were obtained in contravention of the laws of the exporting State for the protection of fauna and flora.

Explanation: The export of a species not listed on the CITES Appendices or the Endangered Species Act (such as kangaroos and most reptiles) is often nonetheless regulated by national conservation laws of the exporting State; these regulations are often designed to ensure that export is not detrimental the survival of the species concerned. Exports conducted in accordance with such laws are often accompanied by an export permit from the country of origin. The Service should not promote or engage in wildlife trade that is harmful to wildlife populations or that undermines the wildlife protection laws of other countries.

The Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Reauthorization Act of 1998 (H.R. 3113)

The HSUS supports reauthorization of the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act which directs funds toward valuable in-situ rhino and tiger conservation projects. The HSUS recommends that Congress appropriate $1 million for the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund in FY99.

The Rhino and Tiger Product Labeling Acts (S. 361 and H.R. 2807)

The HSUS wishes to thank Senator Jeffords for his leadership on this effort to enact legislation that would prohibit the import and export of any product labeled as containing endangered species or species listed on CITES Appendix I. One needs only to walk into an Asian market in any large city in the United States to view the many products offered for sale that claim to contain such species. The HSUS is often asked by our members and constituents how such items can be offered for sale in the United States. The response is, unfortunately, that the burden of proof that the items actually contain these species rests on the over-worked and underfunded U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Division. And furthermore that, even when examined by forensic experts, it is often difficult to detect the species in these products because they are present in such minute quantities.

S. 361 would amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in order to achieve the aforementioned goals. In contrast, H.R. 2807 has a narrower focus and would not amend the ESA; instead, it would amend the Rhino and Tiger Conservation Act to prohibit the import, export and sale of any product labeled as containing any substance derived from any species of rhinoceros or tiger.

The HSUS supports the intent of both bills. S. 361 is the ideal approach because it addresses trade in all endangered and CITES Appendix I species, not just rhinos and tigers as does H.R. 2807. However, H.R. 2807 is also appealing because it would prohibit sale of products claiming to contain these species (it is far easier for enforcement officers to observe these products being offered for sale than to observe them being imported or exported); S. 361 does not address sale. In conclusion, The HSUS recommends that the Committee to work with Senator Jeffords and Congressmen Saxton and Miller to ensure enactment of a Labeling Law by the end of this legislative year.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, for this opportunity to share our views about these bills.

Organizations that Support HSUS' Testimony on the Bear Protection Act

Action for Animals Network (VA)
Adopt a Pet/ Save a Life (AL)
Alliance for the Wild Rockies (ID)
American Humane Association (CO)
American Lands American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals American Wildlands (MT)
Animal Allies (NH)
Animal Allies (VA)
Animal Care and Welfare/SPCA (PA)
Animal Protection Institute (CA)
Animal Protective Association of Missouri (MO)
Animal Rights America (NJ)
Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (FL)
Animal Rights International (NY)
The Animal Shelter (AL)
Animals Asia Foundation (Hong Kong)
Ardmore Animal Care, Inc. (OK)
The Ark Trust (CA)
Arkansans for Animals, Inc. (AR)
Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (CA)
Beauty Without Cruelty (NY)
Boulder-White Clouds Council (ID)
Canyon County Animal Shelter (ID)
Carson/Eagle Valley Humane Society (NV)
Cayuga County SPCA (NY)
Chatauga County SPCA (NY)
Chilton County Humane Society (AL)
Closter Animal Welfare Society (NJ)
Committee for Idaho’s High Desert (ID)
Committee for Rational Predator Management (ID)
Cumberland Animal Control (RI)
Defenders of Animals Inc. (CT)
Defenders of Wildlife Deutsches Tierhilfswerk (Germany)
Doris Day Animal League Dutchess County SPCA (NY)
Earth Island Institute (CA)
Earthtrust The Ecology Center (MT)
Environmental Advocates (NY)
Environmental Investigation Agency Europaisches Tierhilfswerk Farm Sanctuary (NY)
Franklin County Humane Society (MO)
Franklin County Humane Society (FL)
Free The Bears Fund, Inc. (Australia)
The Foundation for Animal Protection, Inc. (CT)
Friends of Animals (CT)
Friends of the Bitterroot (MT)
Friends of the West (ID)
Friends for Animal Welfare of Randolph County, Inc. (AL)
Friends of the Wild Swan (MT)
Fund For Animals Gallatin Valley Humane Society (MT)
Global Survival Network Greater Yellowstone Coalition (ID)
Greenpeace Foundation (HI)
Hells Canyon Preservation Council (OR)
Humane Farming Association (CA)
Humane Federation of Wyoming (WY)
Humane Society International Humane Society of Central Oregon/SPCA (OR)
Humane Society of Collier County (FL)
Humane Society of Etowach County (AL)
Humane Society of Fairfax County (VA)
Humane Society of North Pinellas (FL)
Humane Society of the Palouse, Inc. (ID)
Humane Society of Tampa Bay, Inc Hunterdon County SPCA, Inc. (NJ)
Idaho Animal Advocates (ID)
Idaho Coalition United For Bears (ID)
Idaho Conservation League (ID)
Idaho Sportsmen for Fair Hunting (ID)
Idaho Watersheds Project (ID)
International Primate Protection League Kootenai Environmental Alliance (ID)
Lands Council (WA)
Last Chance for Animals Laurel Animal Welfare League (MT)
Marion County Humane Society (FL)
Monmouth County SPCA (NJ)
Montana Ecosystem Defense Council (MT)
Montgomery County Humane Society (AL)
National Humane Education Society (VA)
New Hampshire Animal Rights League (NH)
New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance (NJ)
New Jersey Coalition for Animals (NJ)
North American Wolf Association Northeastern Oklahoma Animal Helpers (OK)
Northern Rockies Preservation Project (ID)
Oklahoma SPCA (OK)
Pacific Environment and Resources Center Performing Animal Welfare Society (CA)
Pet Partners of Victor Valley (CA)
Ponca City Humane Society (OK)
Predator Defense Institute (OR)
Predator Project (MT)
Putnam County Humane Society (FL)
Rancho Coastal Humane Society (CA)
Recognition of Animal Rights (NY)
Rocky Mountain Animal Defense (CO)
Rhode Island Animal Rights Coalition (RI)
Safe Haven Humane Society (OR)
Sawtooth Wildlife Council (ID)
Shambala Preserve (CA)
Shawnee Animal Shelter (OK)
Society for Animal Protective Legislation South Lake Animal League (FL)
SPCA Josephine County (OR)
Swan View Coalition (MT)
T-Town People for Animal Welfare and Safety (AL)
Urban Wildlife Crisis Center (CT)
Walker County Humane Society (AL)
Washington Humane Society (DC)
Wayne County Humane Society (NY)
West Orange Animal Welfare League, Inc. (NJ)
West Volusia Humane Society (FL)
Wild Wilderness (OR)
Wildcare Foundation (OK)
Wildlife Watch (NY)
Wiregrass Humane Society (AL)
Wise County Humane Society (VA)
World Society for the Protection of Animals (MA)
Wyoming Advocates for Animals (WY)