Saturday, November 25, 2017

Has It Really Been Nine Years??

Yes it has.   Nine years ago today I sat down at my mother-in-law’s computer in Gainesville, Florida and launched this blogspot.   I had no idea at the time where I was going to go with it or what I really wanted to say.  I offered a simple reason why: “For a long time now I have been reading those [blogs] of others and so I thought it is time for me to chime in.”   That I have done.  Since then I have posted here 420 times (this is #421) and this site has been viewed 247,286 times by readers in over 100 countries around the world.  This is more than I could have ever hoped for when I sat down at the computer that evening.  I’m still going strong.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

From Camelot to Amityville

Sitting here this morning I suddenly realized that yesterday was the 54th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I neither read nor heard a single reference to it yesterday. I would have thought the decline of this country from Camelot to Amityville would have deserved an appropriate comment (280 characters or less).

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Why Am I not Surprised? - Trump Targets Elephants

Take a good, long look at this photograph, if you can. It is disgusting in the extreme. It show the eldest son of the President [sic] of the United States standing next to the corpse of an African elephant he had just killed. He proudly stands there with knife and severed tail in hand after claiming his trophy of the kill. Frankly, I find it too disturbing to look at. I share it here only to make a point I did not believe I needed to make. Apparently I do.

In an interview in 2012, when this photograph first surfaced, Trump Junior claimed that it is a tradition in Africa to cut off the tail of a killed elephant as a sign of respect for the animal. He later stated that he and his younger brother were "avid outdoorsmen and were brought up hunting and fishing with our grandfather who taught us that nothing should ever be taken for granted or wasted." He stated further that "all meat was donated to local villagers who were incredibly grateful . . . we are outdoorsmen at heart." I would beg to differ.

Two days ago the US Fish and Wildlife Service (an agency within the US Department of the Interior) announced that it would renew the issuing of permits allowing for the importation of trophies taken from elephants killed on big game hunts in Zimbabwe and Zambia after January 21, 2016. It justified this policy reversal by suggesting that legal "well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program" was beneficial, and that permitting the importation of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia would raise money for various conservation programs in these countries. It fails to note, however, that both countries have long been plagued by rampant corruption.

According to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders a review undertaken by the Fish and Wildlife Service "established that both Zambia and Zimbabwe had met new standards, strict international conservation standards that allowed Americans to resume hunting in those countries." ’Really??? In Zimbabwe which is presently in the throes of a military coup? Even Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said the lifting of the ban was the "wrong move at the wrong time."

New standards?? This is also news to everyone who is familiar with the dangerous plight of the African elephant which remains on the list of threatened species on the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Public Law 94-205) which requires the US government to protect endangered species in other countries as well as in the United States.

A New York Times editorial warned that lifting the ban announced by the Obama administration in 2014 (which provided for the possibility for the importation of elephant parts only if it could be established that hunting would improve the overall viability of the species) would "endanger gains made by governments and environmental groups to protect elephants from illegal trade in ivory and other body parts." Once again this current administration is ignorantly going about its efforts to destroy the legacy of the previous one, and with it the African elephant.

The lifting of the ban was lauded by the Safari Club International, a hunters’ rights advocacy organization, and by the National Rifle Association, which apparently is not satisfied with the wholesale slaughter of innocent Americans but believes it important for American hunters to also slaughter endangered wildlife here and abroad. Thankfully, vocal opposition to the lifting of the ban was immediate, loud and pervasive and thankfully this led to a quick, if perhaps only a temporary hold, on the reversal pending further review. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced yesterday that he had discussed the matter further and both he and Trump agreed that "conservation and healthy herds are critical." Trump says he will wait to make a final decision until he has time to "review all conservation facts." Wouldn’t you think this review would have been undertaken before announcing the lifting of the ban? That is just not the way it works in Trump’s Washington.

Does this temporary hold illustrate Trump’s change of heart, or that of his administration? Or that Congress will oppose the lifting of the ban? Don’t think so for a minute. Representative Ed Royce, a California Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, suggested that the ban should remain in place "until Zimbabwe stabilizes." He view the killing of elephants from the point of view of national security. He is not concerned with big game hunting but rather with the poaching of elephants which is "blood currency for terrorist organizations." He added that regulated hunts could be beneficial to maintain a healthy herd. This logic may hold when considering overpopulated deer herds and the like, but surely does not apply to the African elephant and other endangered species that are being slaughtered at an alarming rate.

Trump says he wants to weigh the conservation facts. How about this one? According to the Great Elephant Census released by the World Conservation Congress last year, the African savanna elephant population stood at approximately 352,000 over 93% of its former habitat. This demonstrates a decline of 30% of the overall population between 2007 and 2014 (the year the Obama administration instituted the ban). The census also showed that in some areas the population had declined by as much as 74%. Add to this the fact that this population is experiencing an 8% annual decline

due to the ravages of the poaching epidemic throughout Africa. The UN estimates that 27,000 African elephants are slaughted annually. You do the math! If this is true, and all who are in the know seem to agree it is, then how can studies show that the African elephant population "in both Zambia and Zimbabwe [where the population declined 6% during that period] had met new standards, strict international conservation standards"?

This past spring my wife and I visited South Africa where we were able to spend some quality time up close and personal with African elephants. We found them to be highly intelligent and compassionate. They pose no threat unless threatened. People have the ability to stand up and protest when they experience injustice. Elephants and other relatively defenseless endanged animals do not. They are slaughtered by trophy hunters and our government apparently thinks this is just fine (unless our national security is threatened). Well I don’t. One thing is clear. Elephants certainly demonstrate an intelligence and compassion unfamiliar to the heartless and ignorant individual sitting in the Oval Office and his two butcher boys.