A Decade Later, Results of UN CITES Decision About Ivory Sale; An Elephant Holocaust in Africa

The results of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES back in 2002 is worse than expected. An elephant holocaust is taking place in parts of Africa. The gentle giants will be extinct in some areas if unethical, amoral, and ruthless poaching doesn’t cease.  Back in 2002 members of the U.N.’s CITES meeting in Chile decided in favor of 3 African nations Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa to release stockpiles of ivory for one time only sales. The U.N. had previously put an overall ban on international sales of ivory in 1989-90 and that was extended for 9 years in 2007. Prior to that poaching was out of control, i.e., Kenya alone poached on average 3,000 elephants annually. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2457965.stm and http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2320901.stm

The 2002 decision was largely contested by animal welfare groups claiming it would ignite illegal poaching again. The head of that convention, Willem Wijnstekers, professed to see no correlation between making that ivory available on the market for a quick sale and an increase in elephant poaching.  Organizations like IFAW, Born Free, WWF, and Kenya’s Wildlife Service speaking on behalf of the elephants predicted what would happen with comments like:

  • [a]death knell for African elephants
  • a looming catastrophe for Africa’s elephant
  • Elephant herds would be decimated as illegal ivory smuggling booms.
  • a death warrant for thousands of elephants… which will now be targeted by well-organized poaching gangs to feed the increased demand that will be created for illegal ivory—IFAW.
  • decision could “spell doom” for elephants.
  • This move could re-open the floodgates to poaching on a scale not seen in the past decade

Despite warnings and an actual run-up of poaching in Kenya before the CITES decision, the all wise and knowing members of the committee on TRADE and not animal welfare decided to allow the sale of 60 tons and another 50 tons of ivory between the 3 countries on 2 occasions in 2004. Willem said, “The move did not imply a re-launch of the ivory trade, nor authorization to hunt.” He said, ”Instead, it would benefit local communities economically.”  Ahh, there it is—economics. Damn the elephants.  It’s political. WWF: “The level of political wheeling and dealing and trading on the decisions is worse than I’ve ever seen at any Cites conference previously.” Almost sounds like the U.S. grey wolf—literally thrown under the bus. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2435663.stm

The CITES decision was also based on strong management programs for elephants in the 3 countries petitioning for sales and that “the proceeds [would] be used to conserve elephants.”  Mind you other African nations with elephants did not have strong management programs and were unable to ensure the elephant’s safety. After all, Africa is a big, big continent of geographically, politically, and economically diverse countries. The U.N. knows this. And money from ivory sales being used for conservation sounds a whole lot like the U.S. hunting industry constantly donating to conservation.  The lines purposely get blurred and the gesture ultimately amounts to more ways to kill critters that aren’t plentiful.  In other words, when the foxes decide to renovate and upgrade the henhouse, most assuredly the prize hens will come up missing.

The U.N. CITES committee also needed to develop a system of monitoring legal sales of ivory to see if the decision did indeed lead to increased poaching.  The actual sales couldn’t occur until 2004 because CITES was tasked with collecting all the data for hunting, artisans, and vendors that legally sold ivory in all 3 countries and whatever country purchased the ivory, plus a tally of elephant populations in order to ascertain whether or not it would be detrimental or not relative to poaching. Does anyone honestly think this monumental task would be done well in just 2 years?

Oh there were articles back then that just couldn’t seem to confirm the correlation between increased elephant poaching and the 2002 decision even though Kenya has continuously opposed the sale of ivory stockpiles from the beginning. Kenya suffers a severely diminished elephant population due to poaching even though Kenya has very good policing and enforcement policies. http://www.aseanbiodiversity.info/Abstract/51006445.pdf

None of the articles correlating the sale of ivory and poaching came anywhere as close to predicting the long term effects of the U.N. decision as those organizations dedicated to the preservation of wildlife. Conservationists clearly based their opposition not only on the science of managing elephant populations but also GREEDY HUMAN NATURE and the blatant politicizing of the 2002 CITES meeting relative to ivory.

So what did the U.N. CITES do in 2007 despite the upward trend in poaching and ivory demand? They allowed the same type of sale to the same 3 countries once again. And t appeared to be with an even bigger approval by the likes of Great Britain:

To the horror of conservationists, many countries – including Britain – argued that the sale would satisfy demand and reduce poaching. In fact, it has had the opposite effect and led to a surge in elephant slaughter by poachers who launder their ivory through the legal trade. The decision to allow the sale led to China and Japan being approved as trade partners and demand for ivory, in China in particular, has soared. Last year, China approved 37 new retail ivory stores.


By 2008-09, African elephant poaching was at an unprecedented high and auctions for ivory were taking place. http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/leakey-poaching834.html#cr

Elephant Massacre Revealed in Chad

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/08/photogalleries/elephants-massacre/index.html for more pics.

Here we are in 2011. See what man has done? Not just the low life poachers but respected members of the United Nations CITES team that made a stupid, stupid decision against protests for the welfare of elephants worldwide. It was a wrong decision not once but twice. According to an article in the U.K. Telegraph:

Elephant populations in Senegal, Mali and Niger are on the brink of extinction. Chad has just over 600 elephants left, more than 80 per cent down from the 3,800 it had in 2006, while Zimbabwe lost more than 3,000 elephants last year, according to conservationists.

In the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, militias sell ivory from elephants to buy weapons. ‘Elephants are being killed all over Africa,’ says Ian Redmond, a British wildlife biologist and elephant expert. ‘The ivory trade is rampant.

Now despite the U.N. CITES attempts at more enforcement against poaching, too little, too late, the technical world has made tracking elephants even easier. That taste of ivory sold on the market in 2004 and 2007 sparked demand in Asia. Remember the “illegal” trade was loosed by that demand. Criminals don’t follow rules. And the proof is in the numbers of elephants decimated last year. It’s sparking the bush meat trade among elephants now. Not satisfied with carcass meat from ivory poachers, hunters put out snares catching young orphaned elephants too:

Ninety miles north-east of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, a baby elephant hobbles slowly towards a water hole on the slopes of Mount Kenya. Its rear leg is caught in a snare which it drags around with it.

The snare has torn open the elephant’s flesh which has become infected. Unable to keep up with the herd, the elephant has been abandoned and without help will soon die of its wounds.

The elephant was not a target of ivory poachers (it has no tusks) but was caught in a snare placed in the forest by another breed of poacher who is back in serious business. This is the ‘bushmeat’ poacher, who kills animals for their meat.


Elephants are highly intelligent, social animals that show emotion. From the same article:

Jolson Kitheka, the volunteer ranger, is still haunted by one detail of his encounter with the poachers’ handiwork.

The body he found was strewn with mud, leaves and twigs, tossed there by other elephants who had tried to cover up their friend; this is how elephants mourn their dead.

For now much of mankind does not get a connection between all living things as being our general salvation. More and more I truly understand Chief Seattle’s statement: “What happens to the beast, happens to the man.”

Read more about the plight of elephants:

The African elephant population has fallen from 1.3 million in 1980 to between 300,000 and 450,000 today. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2454249.stm

Born Free annual reports on ivory http://www.bornfree.org.uk/animals/african-elephants/projects/ivory-trade/

http://www.mathaba.net/news/?x=555686?flattr amount of ivory allowed for sale over the decade.

http://banivory.wildlifedirect.org/2010/07/22/massive-haul-of-ivory-seized-in-thailand/ Just one of many stories of seized illegal ivory.

SAVE THE ELEPHANTS ORGANIZATION: http://www.savetheelephants.org/




Worldwide Floods Validate Forecast; Ocean Warming Will Increase Precipitation

I’ve blogged about the predicted increase in precipitation associated with global warming. But Science Daily published an article in January of this year that stated: “Precipitation tends to increase over regions with ocean warming above the tropical mean (contours of warm colors in oC), and to decrease where ocean warming is below the tropical mean (contours of cool colors).” So there will be drought in parts of the world and more precipitation in others. So much for the idea that everyone worldwide will fry from global warming. Some will just get saturated and carried away by water. And the fact is floods kill more people than any other weather event.

The study outlined on Science Daily’s website was done by “a team of scientists headed by meteorologist Shang-Ping Xie at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa’s International Pacific Research Center that analyzed global model warming projections in models used by the IPCC.” It found that “ocean temperature patterns in the tropics and subtropics will change in ways that will lead to significant changes in rainfall patterns.” According to the article, two patterns stand out:

First, the maximum temperature rise in the Pacific is along a broad band at the equator. Already today the equatorial Pacific sets the rhythm of a global climate oscillation as shown by the world-wide impact of El Niño. This broad band of peak temperature on the equator changes the atmospheric heating in the models. By anchoring a rainband similar to that during an El Nino, it influences climate around the world through atmospheric teleconnections.

A second ocean warming pattern with major impact on rainfall occurs in the Indian Ocean and would affect the lives of billions of people. Overlayed on Indian Ocean warming for part of the year is what scientists call the Indian Ocean Dipole that occasionally occurs today once every decade or so. Thus, the models show that warming in the western Indian Ocean is amplified, reaching 1.5°C, while the eastern Indian Ocean it is dampened to around 0.5°C.

Xie predicts that if this pattern occurs, rainfall will dramatically shift over eastern Africa, India, and SE Asia, while droughts could happen in Indonesia and Australia.


Well, changes in rainfall patterns are certainly evident as worldwide flash floods are all over the news lately claiming lives and leaving thousands homeless. It looks like those IPCC models are more accurate than most detractors would like to admit:

In March floods in France claimed 45 lives

In the back hills of the French Riviera, flash floods recently claimed 25 lives.

Floods also occurred elsewhere in southern France

Myanmar and Bangledesh flash floods claimed 100 lives.

Flash floods in Brazil claim over 40 lives with 600 missing and 40,000 without shelter.

Poland’s floods claim 12 lives

Hungary, Czechia, and Slovakia also flooded along with Poland

There are huge floods in more than one province of China displacing 2.4 million people, killing over 210

Singapore flooded

Floods in Spain claim 2

And major floods in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming and Arkansas in the U.S. recently claimed close to 30 lives.

Check out the pictures of flood victims worldwide:

Brazil’s flood:

Worldwide flood reports:

France floods:

China’s floods:


2010, The Year of the Tiger Approaches

I love cats, any size or shape, and I know that big cats are in danger of becoming extinct so an article from Environmental News Service I ran across was encouraging. According to the oriental calendar, 2010 is the “Year of the Tiger,” so the government of Nepal jumped on the opportunity to do something about Nepal’s tiger population in the coming year.

Nepal decided to expand Bardia National Park by 347 square miles to increase critical habitat for wild tigers. The same article reported that in the early 1900’s, 100,000 tigers roamed Asia. Now 3,500 of tigers remain in the wild. It’s Nepal’s goal to double their tiger population through various conservation strategies. Evidently, it’s working already. The article stated: “Earlier this year, the first ever nationwide estimate of Nepal’s tiger population revealed the presence of 121 breeding tigers in the wild within four protected areas of Nepal.”

As I read on, I realized there are a number of nations with tiger populations, and they have united to stem the endangerment of this species. Some of the tiger range states that will participate in a summit of the same name this coming year are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. There are technical workshops for law enforcement officials of these countries to “facilitate and coordinate law enforcement action between wildlife enforcement officers, Customs, and police,” as part of the strategy to save the tigers.

There is hope on the horizon for endangered species as countries work together and soon. The idea of sustaining and/or increasing protected habitat, as well as, coordinating strategies for enforcement of poaching laws is already paying off in Nepal.

Read the whole article: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/dec2009/2009-12-28-02.asp.


Brown Clouds Across Asia

As we continue to argue whether or not man causes global warming, brown clouds are shadowing land from the Arabian Peninsula across Asia all the wayto the Pacific Ocean. Hey when we can see it, it’s idiotic to deny it.

The clouds are not only darkening cities but also causing the Himalayan glaciers to melt. How is that happening? One would assume that darkened skies shield the glaciers from the sun’s glare. An article from Beijing, China on Environmental News Service states: “Atmospheric brown clouds, formed by the burning of fossil fuels, biofuels, wood and plants, absorb sunlight and heat the air.” Not only that but, “The clouds also mask the actual warming impact of climate change by anywhere between 20 and 80 percent because they include sulfates and other chemicals which reflect sunlight and cool the surface.”

There is no logic relative to global warming. You know the same simple logic that figures we are getting cooler so it can’t possibly be global warming. That’s a little too easy. As anyone can see from this latest study, what should be isn’t, plus the affects are hidden.

The scientists that conducted this study are from universities and research centers throughout Asia, Europe, and the U.S. The article went on to show yet another chain reaction: “The possible impact of atmospheric brown clouds could include elevated levels of ground-level ozone, which could result in crop losses of up to 40 percent in Asia.” And the Himalayan glaciers are the source for the rivers throughout China. Food and water shortages may happen in the near future. With over a billion people, could this mean a widening world famine?



Myanmar’s Katrina

Tropical storm Nargis hit Myanmar (Burma) on Saturday. As many as 24 million people have been affected by the storm, and the death toll may be as many as 10,000. It is one of the poorest countries on the planet with this event the second largest to hit Southeast Asia since the tsunami.

The funny part is that rumors and complaints by the many Buddhists that live there is that the strict militant junta government did not act to warn them in time. The people learned of the storm too late and the state run media didn’t issue warnings to save them.

Not hard to believe after seeing what happened in the streets of Myanmar last September. The government brutality against the peaceful protests of Buddhist monks, and cameras stopped in the middle of filming to keep it out of the public eye does not indicate that this country is moving toward democracy as it has been prodded to do so by many.

As a matter of fact, there is a referendum relative to democratic elections for the country due May 10th, and the unethical junta ruled government doesn’t plan on changing the date. They claim that people all over the country are looking forward to it. Considering many don’t have homes, power, food, or water, I doubt it. The government there hasn’t even asked for major aid yet, although it’s rolling in from many places now that the word is out about the extent of devastation. This area is not new to devastating cyclones and typhoons. A sophisticated early warning system might be the most humanitarian offering for this area in the long run. Ditto for new dikes in New Orleans.




Elephant Paints Self Portrait

Elephant self-portrait

This is a self portrait by an elephant. Catchthe videoon the You Tube link below. The picture was light and I had to go over the lines and couldn’t do it very well and I am an artist! Elephant painting is not new. There is Surapa of the Buffalo Zoo who paints, and quite well, although abstract and contemporary, and Lucky of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs who paints well enough to beshowcased in galleries. But this latest elephant painting is a little unsettling, and should make us reconsider our attitude toward animals, especially the needless slaughter of what we deem expendable because they are supposedly inferior to us.

Many earlier explanations about animals being inferior to humans are slowly being dispelled. For instance, the idea that an animal doesn’t recognize itself in a mirror. It supposedly thinks it’s another animal.But, I watched Good Morning America not long ago preview another elephant whose trainer put a white paint mark on its head. When the elephant looked in a mirror later on, it immediately went to a nearby wooden fence and tried to rub it off. As far as animals not having feelings, I watched a whole herd of elephants gather around the mother of a dead baby elephant that was lying at her feet, their trunks hanging down in mourning. They stood together for a long time. Another excuse for inferiority is relative to language. Apes have successfully learned sign language to communicate with humans, and Alex the African Grey parrot was phenomenal for not only stating what something was, but also the color, and composition of the object. Poor Alex died not long ago. As I write this my African Grey, Curtis, is trying to put a hole in my sweatshirt. He calls me Ree’rah for Ria. It sounds like Astro, the dog on the Jetsons, is saying my name. Having a pet that calls you by name feels way too human. I honestly think that by treating animals with a little more respect we too could become more human again. It’s called a reverence for life.

As an English major, I had the pleasure to run across some mighty powerful classic short stories about animals. One of the most poignant stories I read was particularly relative to elephants. I don’t really want to read it again because of the intense description at the end of the story. Take the time to read”Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell. It’s short and powerful enough to bring up many ethical questions. When I think that elephants have been slaughtered for their tusks only,slaughtered because they stepped on coffee plants in a plantation that robbed them of most of their habitat, abused in circuses, given poor living conditions in many zoos because they need to belong to a large herd, like a society, not just in pairs, I have to wonder who the inferior species is sometimes. We’re supposed to have the big brains,and a conscience that leads to a big heart. But I’m not seeing a lot of that lately.

Read “Shooting an Elephant” : http://www.elephantcountryweb.com/Elliestories.html#Shooting%20an%20Elephant

About Surapa: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/attract/NYBUFsurapa.html

About Lucky: http://www.cmzoo.org/elephantart.html

You Tube video of self portrait painting elephant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po1KEPz43AE&feature=related


World Environment Day

Today, June 5, is World Environment Day. The theme is “Melting Ice a Hot Topic” in support of International Polar Year, which runs from 2007 to 2008 according to the website Environment news Service, http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jun2007/2007-06-05-03.asp. Tromso, Norway will host the event this year.

Melting polar ice is worse than we think. The article went on to say that the actual melt rate of glaciers into the Gulf of Alaska has nearly doubled since 1995. We should all be concerned, very concerned. Its effects will be felt by people in the tropics, temperate climates and large cities around the globe not only people living in Artic or ice capped mountainous regions because an estimated 1.5 billion people are dependent on water from rivers impacted by melting snow and ice. That would be our Northwestern states. The ice caps in Glacier National Park are disappearing at an alarming rate. The flow of water from yearly spring melts is what sustains the tributaries that maintain the water supplies of many cities out West. The increased rate of melting will eventually see the last of the water from those mountaintops and then what?

About 300 million people are dependent on snow and ice melting in periods with low precipitation. In Central Asia, Peru and Chile, large land areas are completely reliant on melting water from snow and glaciers. And melting snow and glaciers on the mountains of Asia alone could affect about 40 percent of Earths population, the report warns. The Norwegian Minister of the Environment said that we have started an accelerating process and do not know its outcome. Norway is one of the countries in an area that will see the first results of ocean levels rising and gobbling up shorelines.

As the ice and snow melt, avalanches occur that dump into glacial lakes causing the water to stir up and levels to rise. Many of these lakes are unstable with large areas of methane gas at the bottom. The report explains that rising temperatures, coupled with the thawing of frozen land or permafrost, are leading to the creation of new lakes and the expansion of existing lakes in places like Siberia, which are releasing bubbles of methane, estimated to be 43,000 years old.

The first global warming event that scientists have been able to reliably trace, took place 40 million years ago and was caused by the release of too muchmethane gas when the earth was still unstable. I looked into this quite a while ago and the most frightening aspect was that the climate temperature only rose a degree and slowly over a period of a thousand years compared to what we are experiencing now with a rapid change of possibly 1 degree in a little over a hundred years. The event caused the earth to incinerate.

Make no mistake. This is not the same temperature change we experience on a daily basis where a few days ago it was 85 degrees and today it is 66 degrees. This is about over all climate change across the entire world that drastically affects everything. So the next time you hear someone like Regis Philbin say, “One degree, I’m really scared” and make fun of it on TV, don’t rely on his or her common logic or should I say stupidity. It does not apply here and is not about the temperature fluctuation we experience seasonally or on a daily basis.

With less snow and sea ice the surrounding land will absorb more heat from the sun and polar oceans that will speed up the process even more. Anyone that skis the slopes in the winter knows about the reflected sunlight off the snow. With no snow the sunlight is simply absorbed. Sunglasses are a necessity and is it just me or is the sun getting to be sickening in strength? I can remember when I was young; it was possible to look directly at the sun for at least a few seconds. Now the glare is simply too strong to forego sunglasses when it’s a sunny day. Is this an effect from the loss of the reflective layer in our artic poles that protected us for so long? I do know that pets that are outside all of the time suffer cataracts earlier than pets kept indoors. I don’t doubt that in the future there may be warnings about keeping your animals outdoors at all as the ice and polar caps melt and the reflective process decreases. After that it may not be long before we are asked to stay indoors as much as possible. What kind of life will that be?