Advisory Council Provides Political Cover for Animal Rights Groups and NGOs Without Helping Elephants
President Obama’s Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking is composed of NGOs dependent on government grants and political operatives indebted to prominent politicians and/or angling for jobs in a future administration. No one on the council has any background or experience working with legal ivory in the United States. This group serves as political cover for an animal rights agenda that has always opposed the ivory trade combined with NGOs who profit off of an exaggerated crisis.
Despite claims to the contrary, the Advisory Council and its members have spent a disproportionate amount of time and resources on a domestic ivory ban. The United Nations Environmental Programme estimated this year (RRAcrimecrisis.pdf) that the total value of all illegal poaching and trade of plants and wildlife is $7-$23 Billion annually. Of that figure, elephant ivory constitutes a maximum of $165-$188 million (retail estimate). Total wildlife crime, including illegal lumbering, fisheries, mining and dumping hazardous waste, is valued between $70-$213 Billion annually. That means poached illegal ivory accounts for 0.7%-2.7% of all wildlife trafficking (the Charter of the Advisory Council), or 0.077%-.269% of all wildlife crime.
The more you dig, the more bias you find. Cristian Samper is a Council member and the CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, an organization with over $657 million in assets, over $230 million in annual revenues, and about $66 million in government grants. (2012-WildlifeConservationSociety 990_OCR.pdf) This is also the organization spearheading the publicity campaign for a domestic ivory ban, coordinating with museums and zoos, and launching grassroots groups to criminalize the sale of virtually all ivory in the United States.
These are the same organizations that consistently exaggerate the extinction threat to African Elephants. CITES estimates the African Elephant population on the African continent to be around 500,000. While some populations in Africa have suffered due to poaching and habitat destruction, others, particularly in Southern Africa, are thriving. CITES estimates illegal poaching peaked in 2011 at 25,000 elephants, and poaching has declined through 2012 to 20,000. The key to the decrease in poaching was increased law enforcement in Africa, and poaching has been dropping since before the ivory ban was proposed.
The Elephant Protection Association strongly supports measures that will protect elephants, both in the short and long terms. However, it does not support manufactured crises that disregard proven conservation methods in favor of political issues from which NGOs raise money but do not benefit living elephants. The political issues waste resources that could help protect elephants, and in the worst case, actually harm elephants by generating policies that fail to account for economic and environmental realities.