Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for giving me the opportunity to provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's assessment of S. 627, the African Elephant Conservation Reauthorization Act of 1997, and S. 1287, the Asian Elephant Conservation Act of 1997. On behalf of the Administration, the Service strongly supports the reauthorization of the African Elephant Conservation Act through the year 2002 and fully supports the enactment of the legislation addressing the plight of the Asian elephant and congratulates the Congress on its foresight in recognizing this need.

First, I would like to address S. 627, the African Elephant Conservation Reauthorization Act, and how it has played a significant role in U.S. efforts to encourage and assist in on the ground projects aimed at conserving elephants in Africa. In fact, the early success of this program provided the impetus to the passage of the companion Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994, and initial funding provided pursuant to this new act in Fiscal Years 1996/97 has allowed us to begin a modest grant program directed at highest priority projects for critically endangered rhinoceros and tiger populations.

As a Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and a major consumer of species covered by the Convention, the U.S. shares responsibility for supporting and implementing measures to provide for the conservation of endangered and threatened species, both at home and abroad. The African Elephant Conservation Act is designed to encourage and assist efforts to conserve one of the world's most ecologically and sociologically important species of wildlife. The Act's key element is the provision of financial resources to help support elephant conservation programs in the wild in their countries of origin. The Act is part of the strong U.S. commitment to assisting the people of developing African nations in implementing their priorities for wildlife conservation. Continued support by the U.S. through reauthorization of the Act remains critical to the continued conservation of African elephants.

I would now like to address the successes of the African Elephant Conservation Act. Enacted in 1989 and initially funded in fiscal year 1990, the Act has now given us over six years of experience with African elephant conservation programs in 17 African countries. The African Elephant Conservation Act came into existence at a time when most African elephant populations were declining at an alarming rate, due primarily to poaching for a large illegal trade in ivory. Population estimates vary widely for the African elephant from the 35 countries within the current range, but it is estimated that total elephant numbers declined continent-wide by as much as 50 percent during the late 1970s and 1980s.

In response to this precipitous decline, the Act authorized a unique, two-pronged conservation strategy. First, it required a review of elephant conservation programs and established a process for implementation of strict ivory import controls; and second, it established a Fund for cooperative conservation projects in African countries. Under the authority of the ivory trade provisions of the Act, in June of 1989 the President established a moratorium on all ivory imports into the United States, which was at that time the third largest consumer of ivory in the world. The Congressional leadership that facilitated passage of the Act, and ensuing U.S. ivory import moratorium, were essential precursors to the U.S. leadership in the subsequent decision by CITES parties in October of 1989 to transfer of the African elephant from CITES Appendix II to CITES Appendix I and impose a global ban on international ivory trade. While it was recognized that several African countries, particularly in Southern Africa, had stable elephant populations and were able to maintain adequate internal conservation programs, there was no effective mechanism to control international trade in illegal ivory.

The information available to us today shows that the ivory ban was quickly followed by significant declines in the rate of elephant poaching, ivory prices and ivory trade, combined with stabilization of elephant populations in many countries that were previously experiencing declines. It is important to note that there was also a concurrent increase in donor funding to help support anti-poaching and other conservation efforts in range countries following the Appendix I listing -- most notably from the United States, including the first appropriation of funds under the Act. It is also significant and gratifying to note that the U.S., unlike some other donor countries, is continuing to fulfill its commitment to elephant conservation.

However, there is no room for complacency. The debate continues today over the impacts of the Appendix I listing on elephant utilization programs in some countries in Southern Africa. Furthermore, some have suggested that poaching may be on the rise again, due in part to declines in both donor funding and in wildlife management and anti-poaching budgets in many African countries.

The issues of elephant conservation and ivory trade are very complex and were a significant focus of the Tenth Meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties, hosted by Zimbabwe in June of this year. The elephant populations in Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe were down-listed from the treaty's highest level of protection, Appendix I, to Appendix II to allow for a number of trade options including a limited commercial trade in their legal stockpiles of ivory, live animals, and for Zimbabwe in carvings, hides, and leather as well. The African Elephant Conservation Act still remains a critical link to enable continued active U.S. involvement in African elephant conservation, through both its import control provisions and the grant program. Implementation of this program has played a directly positive role in the conservation of the African elephant, and an indirect role in the conservation of numerous species that benefit from the conservation of this keystone species.

To date, the Service has funded 55 different projects in 18 African countries affecting over 225,000 elephants. Each project is a cooperative effort with African CITES Management

Authorities, other foreign governments, nongovernmental organizations or the private sector. No in-country project is approved unless it has the full support of and has been identified by that country as a priority for conservation. Through this cooperative approach the actual on-the- ground resources directed at African elephant conservation is almost double the $5 million allocated to the program since 1990. Under the Act all but 3 percent of fluids allocated to the grant program are used to fund projects. Additionally, no overhead charges are supported by grant funds. All such costs are borne by the cooperators as matching contributions to the project. Thus. 97 percent of all funds allocated by Congress to the Fund are obligated to specific projects.

In implementing this program the Service has also designed a streamlined process that allows for timely approval of projects, and that has the capacity to respond quickly to emergency situations. Since no implementing regulations were deemed necessary, there was no time lag in initial receipt of fluids and actual implementation of the program. Furthermore, the grant program is designed to provide quick, short term support for holding actions and other conservation measures, in concert with existing or proposed long range activities, or until such long range activities are in place. In the early implementation of the Act, it became apparent that there was a definite need for such a responsive grant program, and it has become the hallmark of its success.

One of the earliest projects funded was a cooperative effort with the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, Central African Republic, and the World Wildlife Fund. A cooperative effort was underway to establish a reserve in the southeastern portion of that country. While fluids for gazetting the reserve were anticipated, no fiuids were available for basic equipment and operations of anti-poaching patrols -- hired from local communities -- until a cooperative project was implemented under the Act. When the first patrols were put into place, the only signs of elephants in a local clearing within the park were the carcasses of several poached animals. Today over 2,000 individual elephants, young and old, have been identified to be using that clearing. From an observation platform, local school children can watch in awe as dozens of elephants gather together.

In Senegal, the western most population of elephants in Africa is now secure. Through an African Elephant conservation fund grant, an anti-poaching program has provided local community employment and protection for the remaining elephant population. For the first time in years, baby elephants are now seen in this small but genetically valuable population.

In the first years of the program the majority of funding requests and the highest priority projects for funding were proposals submitted by or in cooperation with African elephant range state governments for anti-poaching assistance. Similar to the projects described above, funds have been provided to augment anti-poaching and management support in Cameroon, Congo, Eritrea, Gabon, Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Equipment purchased with these funds has ranged from vehicles to radios to field gear.

One of the most innovative anti-poaching projects funded is a cooperative effort with the Southern African Wildlife Trust and several cooperating African government agencies. It consists of a meritorious service awards program for game scouts and rangers in Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This program has provided a much needed morale boost for the individuals who are asked to risk their lives every day as they routinely confront heavily armed groups of commercial poachers.

More recently there has been a shift in focus from anti-poaching projects to other conservation activities that address management needs and increasing human/elephant conflicts, as expanding human populations reduce the amount of wild lands available. In Southern Africa a number of projects have been implemented to assist range state agencies with elephant management programs. A cooperative project with the Zimbabwe Department of National Parks and Wildlife, for example, focused on the development of translocation techniques for elephant family units. Over 1,000 individual elephants were successfully translocated to new range in Zimbabwe when drought threatened hundreds of individuals with starvation and destruction of available habitat. That technique is now being used in South Africa and other range states.

Other management projects include investigations into the effectiveness of various forms of deterrents used to discourage crop-raiding elephants in Cameroon and Zimbabwe; training wildlife officers in Uhana about elephant biology and ecology; and elephant population surveys in Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Malawi, Namibia and Tanzania. Projects have also been fuhded to assist in the establishment of a continent-wide database on elephant populations and in the establishment of the first comprehensive library of elephant resource material.

These are but a few examples of the significant successes of the African Elephant Conservation Act program, demonstrating the wide array of projects and cooperators. I hope that these have served to illustrate its effectiveness and positive impacts on African elephant protection and management. However, while much has been accomplished, much remains to be done. The annual requests for support of high priority projects greatly exceeds the funds available, and we believe that reauthorization of the Act can make an important contribution to elephant conservation.

Next, with respect to S. 1287, introduced by Senator Jeffords, I would like to address the needs of the Asian elephant and the ability of the Service to handle implementation of the Act and to administer the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund. In addition, I would like to provide information on the capabilities and commitment of Asian countries to protect this species and their habitat, as well as what additional steps could be taken to support the implementation of the Act.

From the first appearance of a fairly small tapir like mammal in what is now Egypt 45 million years ago, elephants evolved a number of species which at one time inhabited nearly every continent. By the end of the Pleistocene glaciation about 10,000 years ago, however, only two species survived -- the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and the African elephant (Loxodonta africana). As the largest land animals and as the ultimate symbols of power, elephants have always been viewed by humans with a mixture of awe and fear, commanding respect by their great size but also being viewed as a dangerous and sometimes difficult neighbor.

However, elephants also have other, more intangible values. In Asian cultures in particular, people have embraced the Asian elephant as a treasured partner in life, deified and venerated it into their culture and religion, trained it for hunting and war, and bonded with it at the most basic level. Today, the Asian elephant is also a keystone species for the preservation of biological diversity, since habitats which support wild elephants also provide a home for a vast array of other species, large and small, and thus also is a magnet for ecotourism.

Nevertheless, despite these acknowledged values, the Asian elephant also suffers from a series of paradoxes. Because it is the elephant species usually seen in zoos and circuses, with more than 16,000 animals in captivity, it may be more familiar to the average American citizen. Yet its status is generally less well known by the media and the general public than that of its larger cousin in Africa. With all of the publicity about the decline of the African elephant, they are still more than ten times more numerous than the Asian species, which now numbers only 35,000 to 45,000 animals. The story of the dramatic decline of the African elephant, primarily from large- scale poaching is well known. The dramatic decline of Asian elephant numbers due to the ever- increasing population of the Asian continent is relatively undocumented.

The Asian elephant must share its habitat with some of the largest and poorest human populations in the world. The combination of pressures on the environment brought on by these conditions has resulted in the conversion of forest cover to agriculture and villages, fragmenting elephant habitat and populations. It is believed that today there are only about ten populations with over 1000 elephants, with half of these located in India. The majority of remaining populations are small, with less than 100 elephants each and some with lone bulls.

The dynamics of human population growth have inevitably led to increasing conflicts between humans and elephants. This is not a new phenomenon, but as the competition for the same resources grow, people's tolerance for elephants has dropped. Asian peoples have captured elephants for almost 5,000 years for training for work-associated tasks, religious ceremonies, and war. Where people once revered the elephant and tolerated the occasional crop raiding and destruction, now they are striking back, unfortunately often with lethal results.

Unlike African elephants, Asian elephants have not traditionally been threatened by poaching for the ivory trade, perhaps because females are tuskless and only 60% of the males carry tusks. However, recent trends since 1994 indicate that poaching for ivory, as well as for meat, is on the upswing, especially in southern India. The proportion of sub-adult and adult tuskers in various populations over the last 20 years has dropped dramatically, in some areas by as much as 75%. In one outstanding example, investigations in 1994 revealed that out of 1000 elephants in Periyar Tiger Reserve, one of the strongholds for elephants in India, only five adult males were left. Even among these, only two were tuskers. This preferential decrease in the number of tuskers indicates increased poaching pressure for their ivory.

The implications of this marked sexual disparity have yet to be assessed. But it is obvious that it will result in changes in population structures, not only among adults but among sub-adults and juveniles. A drastic reduction in fertility has already been seen which will affect the long term demographic structure of this population. Similar effects have been well documented in African elephants which have been subject to heavy poaching; and even if poaching is brought under control, it may take years for normal birth rates and juvenile survival to be restored.

In recognition of these threats, the Asian elephant has been accorded the highest levels of legal protection through national laws and international treaties. It is listed as "Endangered" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and on the IUCN--World Conservation Union Red List, and on "Appendix I" of CITES. Most of the thirteen Asian elephant range countries, including India, reinforce these international listings with domestic laws of their own. CITES listing, which is designed to eliminate the world-wide trade in ivory, has been partially successful. However, some illegal ivory obtained from poaching continues to move from country to country. Many Asian countries have the strong desire to reduce the levels of poaching and stop all illegal trade, but they need assistance if they are to improve their ability to enforcement the CITES controls.

In addition, while national legislation has afforded the elephant with maximum protection on paper, local conditions often serve to make this safety net more illusory than real. Forests in many areas can be owned by local District Councils or private individuals and subject to uncontrolled slash and burn, shifting cultivation, leading to disappearance of prime elephant habitats. Erratic economic and political situations as well as lack of emphasis on wildlife-related crimes have made it difficult for some countries to effectively enforce laws and to efficiently manage their elephant populations and other natural resources.

For these reasons, the Asian elephant is in trouble -- and it will take more than legal paperwork to ensure its survival. Asian elephants need active protection and management of their habitat, resolution of the deleterious conflicts with humans over land uses, better law enforcement activities to protect against poaching, reduction of captures from the wild, and better care and humane treatment of the remaining captive populations. They also need the restoration of the harmonious relationship that previously existed with humans through community education and awareness activities.

Given the already endangered status of the Asian elephant and the new and insidious threats now facing it from the factors described above, it is indeed timely that this Committee is now considering S. 1287, the Asian Elephant Conservation Act of 1997. This Act acknowledges the problems of forest habitat reduction and fragmentation, conflicts with humans, poaching and other serious issues affecting the Asian elephant. The Act addresses the need to encourage and assist initiatives of regional and national agencies and organizations whose activities directly or indirectly promote the conservation of Asian elephants and their habitat, and it provides for the establishment of an Asian Elephant Conservation Fund, authorized to receive donations and appropriated funds. While many range governments have demonstrated a commitment towards conservation, the lack of international support for their efforts has been a serious impediment.

Patterned after the African Elephant Conservation Act of 1988 and the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994, the Asian Elephant Conservation Act would assign responsibility for implementation to the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Administrator of the Agency for International Development. The bill would authorize the Secretary to make grants designed to benefit Asian elephants in the world.

The Service would also mesh the administration of this new legislation with our existing responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act, using our experience gained during more than twenty years of participation in cooperative wildlife programs in Asia -- including, among many other projects, a ten-year ecological study of the Asian elephant in India involving training, research, and management activities.

Additionally, the Service has facilitated CITES implementation workshops in six Asian countries, and has so far provided support for 15 projects under the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act in three countries, with many more proposals now under review. The Service has developed an excellent working relationship with most Asian elephant range countries and with the CITES Secretariat, as well as establishing an important network of worldwide experts, advisors and cooperators that can be drawn upon for support and expertise.

Implementation of the Asian Elephant Conservation Act by the Service would be based on the pattern established by the African Elephant and Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Acts. The Service would develop a grant program with a call for proposals that would be sent out to a mailing list of potential cooperators from regional and range country agencies and organizations, including CITES partners and the CITES Secretariat. The Act's criteria for proposal approval gives the Service clear guidance, and priority would be given to proposals which would directly support and enhance wild elephant populations and which include necessary matching funds.

All amounts made available through the Conservation Fund would be allocated as quickly and as efficiently as possible. We expect that Asian elephant range countries and international organizations would submit a variety of conservation proposals for support, including research, management, conflict resolution, community outreach and education, law enforcement, CITES implementation, captive breeding, genetic studies and traditional mahout and koonkie elephant training.

Given the success under the African Elephant Conservation Act and the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act, we expect that the Asian Elephant Conservation Act would make a major contribution to conservation, filling a significant void in our current programs. It would send a strong message to the world that the people of the United States care deeply about Asian elephants and that the U.S. government is committed to helping preserve this keystone species of the remaining tropical and subtropical Asian forests.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, the principles embodied in these two bills are sound. They provide a catalyst for cooperative efforts among the governments of the world, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work together for a common goal -- the conservation and continued healthy existence of populations of African and Asian elephants. Findings made by Congress in enacting the African Elephant Conservation Act regrettably still ring trne today: "Many (African and Asian countries) do not have sufficient resources to properly manage, conserve, and protect their elephant populations." The United States must share the responsibility to provide for the conservation of this magnificent species. This is not a hand out, but a helping hand. For these reasons, Mr. Chairman, we urge this Committee to give favorable consideration to S. 627, a bill to reauthorize the African Elephant Conservation Act, and S. 1287, the Asian Elephant Conservation Act of 1997.