Category Archives: Key Articles

Dr. Dolittle VS. Ringling Bros.

By: Godfrey Harris

The chutzpah of Chris DeRose is breathtaking. He purports to know that animals hate the “demeaning and unnatural tricks” they were forced to perform in Ringling Bros. circus. He asserts that certain behaviors — “swaying” — reflect deep psychological stress. He abhors the fact that animals are used for “human amusement.” He is sure that animals suffer, like humans, when they “never know freedom.” Just when did this real-life Dr. Doolittle learn all of this from the animals?
Might some animals actually enjoy what they do because they crave the rewards that come with their work for humans? Will Mr. DeRose next campaign to end dog shows, abolish guide dogs, terminate K-Nine units, and stop animal caregiving?
Rather than pass more restrictive laws based on the arrogance of zealots who know what animals want, we should remember the importance of our cultural heritage to the future.


About Godfrey Harris:
Godfrey Harris is a a public policy consultant in Los Angeles. He serves as managing director of the Ivory Education Institute. The above letter appeared in the Opinion Section of The Los Angeles Times on May 20, 2017 . This letter was in response to an article written by Mr. Chris Depose that appeared in the same paper on May 17, 2017 (see below).

The demise of Ringling Bros. is a victory for the animal rights movement

By: Chris DeRose

On Sunday, May 21, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will hold its final “greatest show on earth,” at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. For the last time, Ringling’s lions, tigers, camels and other captive animals will enter the ring and be forced to perform demeaning and unnatural tricks. It’s a momentous occasion that took the animal rights movement more than three decades to achieve.

I personally led some of the earliest rallies outside Ringling Bros. shows, back in the late 1980s. As the outcry from activists and advocacy groups grew, Ringling willfully ignored it. Instead of switching exclusively to human performers — who perform by choice rather than force — the 146-year-old institution continued to bully animals. This was its downfall.

The reason is simple: When it comes to animal rights, the tide of public opinion has turned. A 2015 Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans — 62% — believe that animals deserve protection, and 32% believe animals should have the same rights as people. In recent years, many businesses have been forced to change their practices. SeaWorld announced it would end its orca breeding program last March, and the state of California outlawed such programs a few months later. Several years ago, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to ban the use of bullhooks on elephants, and the city of West Hollywood banned the sale of fur products. Many pet stores have stopped selling dogs from puppy mills.

Life for these animals is one of isolation, boredom and trauma.

But while the end of Ringling is a victory for every activist who wrote a letter, signed a petition or protested outside the circus doors, the fight to free animals from cruelty, including in the entertainment industry, is far from over. Other circuses continue to exploit animals for profit, as do zoos, aquariums and rodeos.

For instance, in 2002, an investigator for my organization, Last Chance for Animals, captured footage of elephant training at the Carson & Barnes Circus in Oklahoma. The video showed violent training methods in which elephants were abused with bullhooks, electric prods and blowtorches. At one point, a trainer yelled, “Make ’em scream!” The footage shook the circus industry to its core. Yet the Carson & Barnes Circus still features animal performers.

The simple truth is that animals should not be used for human amusement. The process often is unnatural and cruel from start to finish. Many are taken from the wild as babies and watch as their parents are slaughtered. Others are born in breeding facilities and never know freedom. Life for these animals is one of isolation, boredom and trauma — this is why they so often exhibit abnormal behaviors, such as pulling out their own fur, incessant swaying and bar biting.

As we have seen with the demise of Ringling, the power of sustained activism is strong, but legislation could help hasten and strengthen this hard-won progress. In March, federal legislation was introduced into the House to ban the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling circuses and exhibitions, the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act. We urge Congress to pass it. In April, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to draft a ban on the use of animals for circuses and other live shows, including private parties. We urge the council to write a final version of the bill and enact it.

It took more than three decades for the animal rights movement to put an end to the cruelty Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus inflicted on animals. It shouldn’t take another three decades to eliminate similar animal mistreatment elsewhere.

About Chris DeRose:
Chris DeRose is president and founder of Last Chance for Animals (@LC4A), an international nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating animal exploitation.


Keep Your Hands Off Africa!

Ron Thomson was deeply involved in the management of both Hwange and Gonarezhou National Parks in Zimbabwe. He is the author of many books on conservation in Africa (  He is an expert who has lived and managed wildlife. Listen to his words about elephant populations in southern Africa, the animal rights groups, and the attitude of American government agencies toward the environmental and conservation problems that Africa is experiencing.

Godfrey Harris
Managing Director
Ivory Education Institute


As someone whose passion is wildlife management – and who has a special interest in elephants and rhinos  – whose belief it is that maintaining biological diversity is the ULTIMATE and singlemost important goal of living resource management in a national park, I have to tell you that ALL our southern African national parks are horrifically overstocked with elephants – and that the elephants are busy turning their habitats into deserts.

In 1960 it was agreed by the National Parks Board of that time, that the Hwange National Park’s elephant stocking rate was no more than one elephant per two square miles (I still believe that is about right); and Hwange National Park is 5000 square miles in extent.  Between 1960 and 1964, therefore, I was involved in trying to reduce the elephant population of Hwange from (then) 3500 to 2500 – by shooting every elephant that crossed the park boundary into the tribal lands beyond.  Tim Braybrook and I shot hundreds of elephants during that period, but we  never achieved our objective because elephants were all the time invading Hwange from Botswana – attracted by the 60 boreholed game water supplies we provided for our game in Hwange during that same period of time.  And, in those days even, the elephants of Hwange were already rendering extinct several species of trees in the Hwange habitats.

Nevertheless, in 1960, lets say the ‘desired’ number of elephants for Hwange was 2500.  Compare that to the numbers today: over 50 000.  That means Hwange is currently overstocked with elephants by 2000 percent!  The Gonarezhou is now carrying 11 000 elephants – and the habitats have been trashed.  The 2000 sq mile Gonarezhou should be carrying  no more than 1000 elephants.  So the Gonarezhou is over 1000 percent overstocked.  Kruger should be carrying no more than 4000 elephants; it is currently carrying between 16 000 and 20 000 (depending on whose elephant assessment  you believe).  So Kruger is 400 to 500 percent over stocked.  Botswana is now carrying in excess of 200 000 elephants; yet in 1960, when irreparable habitat damage was first reported from Chobe National Park, the comparable count was (about) 7 500.  So Botswana is carrying, arguably, 27 times as many elephants as it should – and its other wild animal species populations have crashed by up to 60 percent (so far); in some cases by as much as 90 percent.  If you care to look at the situation in Namibia you will find the the same kind of elephant overpopulation situation exists there, too.

So where do these damned First World animal rightists get their propaganda figures from?  And why is the IUCN et al, not more concerned about elephant habitat damage than they are concerned about elephant numbers?  You NEVER hear IUCN so-called “experts” talking about the state of the habitats.  They only express positive comments when elephant count numbers are UP; and dismal forebodings (about extinction) when numbers are DOWN.  The IUCN is worse than the animal rightists!  Elephant population numbers and the health of elephant habitats go hand in hand.  They should be considered as one entity.  Don’t these people understand ANYTHING about the principles and practices of wildlife management? The world has gone crazy with its concern about the predictions of elephant extinctions contained in the animal rightists’ false propaganda. Do the figures I have quoted give you any reason to believe that the elephant, as a species, is facing extinction?  Nothing could be further from the truth.   Yet in America – from Barack Obama’s office down through the governments various administrations – everybody is going cuckoo over the possibility.  Aren’t the people of America normal, thinking and intelligent people?  Don’t they understand that the animal rights movement is a confidence industry.  The purpose of them propagating such disinformation is to make money – vast amounts of money – from the gullible public.

And all these people are now telling Africa HOW it should manage its wildlife.  That idea is preposterous!  These people should keep their hands off Africa!

Ron Thomson

Opposition to Revisions to Rule 4(d)

50 CFR Part 17

The Fish and Wildlife Service includes the following statement in reviewing the regulatory background revising the rule for the African elephant:

“In November 2013, the Service destroyed nearly six tons of contraband African and Asian elephant ivory that had been either seized at U.S. ports or as part of law enforcement investigations over the past 25 years for violation of wildlife laws.”

Nowhere in the long preamble to the proposed rule change has the Service offered any evidence that the ivory crushed had been tested or professionally examined to determine that all six tons destroyed were, in fact, African elephant ivory (Loxodonta Africana). Does the Service really pretend that no legal ivory from walruses, boars, warthogs, mammoths or mastodons had been confiscated in the 25 years?
Put another way, how can the Service be trusted to …………… READ FULL ARTICLE

Letter to the Governor

Hon. Jerry Brown
Governor of lhe Slate of Califom1a
State Cap.tol
Sacramento, CA 95814

September 15, 2015

Dear Jerry:

When you were first running for a seat on the Los Angeles Community College Board, your Dad asked me to see what I could do to help you. I soon learned that I couldn’t do much because you had the campaign well in hand. I remember telling your Dad that you were busy learning what worked for you personally in a political sense and that it was best that you did that on your own and without any consultant Interference.

Your Dad and I began working together after his appointment to the Board of Investors Overseas Services. I remember taking him to Chile to meet the President and driving him to visit the Nixon Presidential Library. I captured part of that Chilean trip 1n a few paragraphs from a new book I have written on political euphemisms.

One of the first times I heard an original euphemism was on an airplane from Los Angles to Santiago, Chile. I was accompanying former California Governor Edmund C. (Pat) Brown to a meeting with Chilean President Eduardo Frei to discuss potential investments in the latter’s country. About two hours into the flight, Pat got up from his seat and announced: “I gotta go to cast a vote for Ronald Reagan.” Brown was dearly about to visit the airplane’s restroom.

But in using a colorful euphemism to mask the reality of his intended action, he was also making a
political statement about the events of 1966. That was the year Ronald Reagan — a mere Hollywood actor with no experience in public office or in major electoral politics — soundly defeated Brown in the latter’s bid for a third term. Pat was smarting because he had handily beaten Richard Nixon, a major national political figure, in California‘s 1962 gubernatorial election. Nixon had been US Vice President in the Eisenhower Administration and had barely lost to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 Presidential race. It was in fact, after that 1962 California election defeat by Brown that Nixon had famously, petulantly and, as it turned out, incorrectly told the press that he was leaving politics and that they wouldn’t have “Nixon to kick around anymore.”

The visit to Yorba Linda 1s memorialized in the accompanying collage containing a photo of your Dad and me and his kind thank you note.

All of this is background to my concerns about AB 96, an act that allegedly protects elephants but will do nothing of the kind. Instead, it kills a segment of California’s economy and discourages collectors without any actual evidence that it will save one elephant. My format statement of opposition is contained in the attached separate memo of Ivory Education Institute. This letter is a personal plea for you to do what you have always done so well: Put the anticipated, political, comfortable and often easiest course of action aside to consider alternative, politically tougher solutions that harbor a better chance of doing more good for the greatest number of people. Why not involve the Department of Fish and Wildlife, knowledgeable specialists in the State, and thoughtful members of the legislature 1n formulating a California-centric plan of action that has a chance of actually protecting endangered elephants. providing a reliable means of distinguishing the age and among the types of ivory and ivory substitutes, and addressing new measures to control the demand for ivory In est Asia.


Godfrey (Jeff) Harris
Harris / Ragan Management Group

Memorandum for the Governor of California

AB 96 Will Hurt Californians More Than It Will Help Elephants

September 14, 2015

Punishing Californians for owning items made from or with ivory — Ivory Education Institute most of which have historical, cultural, and artistic importance and nearly all of which were purchased legally and inherited legitimately — will have no impact on efforts lo save elephants in danger in Africa. Fining and jailing fellow citizens for having done nothing wrong nor endangered the lives, safely or well being of anyone in order 10 “do something” is morally wrong. Worse, this bill is deeply flawed:

  • While AB 96 calls for heavy new penalties for dealing in ivory, there are no funds now or contemplated in the future tor enforcing this law. Will individuals voluntarily relinquish hundreds of millions of dollars in the investments they have made in ivory objects of great age, great cultural importance, and great artistic value? Did California’s ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919 stop alcohol consumption in the Stale? Government by wishful thinking may be acceptable in schoolrooms or by intimidation in authoritarian regimes. it should have no place in California. Promoting anything that further degrades the public’s trust of government in today’s
    political climate seems to invite ever greater revulsion with elected officials.
  • The very number that AB 96 was assigned is questionable – the “96” refers to the number of elephants said to be killed each day in Africa for their ivory. We calculate that 35,000 elephants dying at the hands of poachers would yield at a minimum 700,000 pounds of ivory — the equivalent weight of five Atlantis shuttles. That much ivory would be enough to provide a pair of earrings to one out of every two American women every year. Where are all these earrings being sold?
  • Proponents of AB 96 insist that California is awash in illegal ivory. It is not. The study so often relied on lo make this statement asked researchers whether any ivory on sale in Los Angeles or San Francisco was “possibly” worked after 1977. Nearly every piece seen by the chief investigator fit that category, but he has indicated that only a few were “probably” post-1977 pieces. Asking a question to engineer a certain answer is intellectually dishonest and tantamount to fraudulent to justify a new law.
  • How can banning all trade in important cultural artifacts carved from fossilized walrus or from mammoth and mastodon tusks – animals that have been extinct for tens of thousands of years – have anything reasonably or realistically lo do with saving elephants in Africa today? How is it fair (or sensible) to allow an exemption on the trade and movement of ivory objects for museums, but throw collectors under the bus when they will likely provide what museums eventually display?

AB 96 should be returned lo the legislature with the hope that California could take a major leadership role in the protection of endangered elephant herds by contributing the State’s expertise and resources to helping African communities build a stronger economic stake in their wildlife resources and by bringing current East Asian demand into balance supplies of both elephant and non-elephant ivory.


Godfrey Harris

Managing Director
Political Action Network / International Ivory Society Ivory Education Institute

Ivory Seizure + CA State Legislature = Asset Forfeiture

By: Don Giottonini

Only in California would lawmakers try to make the possession of a perfectly legal antique a crime overnight.

Assembly Bill 96, by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D- San Diego) and State Senator Richard Lara (D-Bell Gardens), would do just that because it would make it illegal to own, possess or transfer ivory even if that ivory was legally purchased or inherited.

The civil and criminal penalties under AB 96 make it worse to possess ivory than for a convicted felon to be in the possession of illegal firearm. How twisted is that?

In 1977, California banned the sale of ivory and with the multiple layers of state, federal and international laws. That law is part of a vast and complex web of state, federal and international laws already in place to protect elephants by drying up the black market ivory trade.

But AB 96 goes way to far by creating a new form of asset forfeiture that essentially devalues property now legally owned and deprives individuals of their property without compensation or due process. This is a blatant violation of the Constitution of the United States. It also contradicts action in Sacramento that has tried to protect against asset forfeiture in other areas of law.

AB 96 should be prospective to ensure property rights aren’t violated. California should be targeting any new ivory illegally entering the state – not legal family heirlooms and antiques.

Unless amended, AB 96 will have many unintended consequences. It will result in protracted and costly legal battles against the state over the constitutionality of AB 96. It will lead to raids by Department of Fish & Wildlife in urban areas that divert precious resources from protecting California wildlife against poaching in the Golden State. It will harm families or non-profits prevented from auctioning valuable antique heirlooms – jewelry, artwork and furniture containing ivory. It will mean lost revenue to dealers currently in possession of legal ivory who would not be able to sell those antiques.

Congress and the federal government have just released new regulations for improving how states can better manage ivory sales.  The California state legislature should first review the new federal regulations, before it acts prematurely.

I don’t fault the goal of AB 96. But it is incredibly flawed. Rather than protecting elephants, it will turn law-abiding citizens into criminals and unjustly turn valuable family heirlooms into worthless items overnight. This elephant bill tramples on fundamental constitutional rights and needs to be fixed before it becomes law.

About Don Giottonini:
Don Giottonini is president of the Sacramento chapter of Safari Club International. The above article ran in August 26th, 2015 issue The Fox & Hounds.

Letter to Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee

June 16, 2015

The Honorable Fran Pavley
Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee
State Capitol — Room 5046
Sacramento, California 95814

RE: Assembly Bill 96 (Atkins)
Position: OPPOSE

Dear Chairwoman Pavley:

On behalf of the Ivory Education Institute I am expressing our opposition to AB 96. The Ivory Education Institute is headquartered in Los Angeles and is dedicated to enhancing understanding of the cultural importance of ivory.

In our view, AB 96 cannot save one elephant in Africa — but it will hurt millions of Californians who own and have inherited ivory heirlooms over the years.

  • The market for illegal ivory products is overwhelmingly in East Asia — certifiably not the U.S. To punish Californians for having something that had been legally obtained and has been of immense artistic, practical, scientific and cultural importance since before Biblical times is tantamount to the Taliban’s desecration of Buddhist statues in Afghanistan and the Islamic State’s destruction of artifacts in Iraq.
  • How can banning all trade in important cultural artifacts carved from fossilized walrus or from mammoth and mastodon tusks — animals that have been extinct for tens of thousands of years — have anything reasonably or realistically to do with saving African elephants today?
  • Why is it that expert opinion is good enough to determine the authenticity of paintings that the Getty, LACMA and other museums buy for hundreds of millions of dollars, but it isn’t good enough to determine the age, type, or provenance of objects made from or with ivory?
  • How is it fair to throw millions of ordinary citizens who have inherited or preserved ivory pieces under the bus, but allow musicians and museums to keep, use and trade their ivory objects unhampered by the Government of California?
  • Why hasn’t anyone demanded evidence from animal rights extremists that banning ivory in California is the most important thing to be done to save African elephants that the activists claim are about to become extinct?

Of course this point demands a further question. Are elephants really about to become extinct?

  • An estimated 15% of the elephants that extremists say are “killed” by poachers each year are actually dying from other causes. Old age, overcrowding, disease, and accidents catch up with elephants just as they do with humans. Other animals are legally hunted as a source of food in villages and culled to prevent land destruction or overcrowding.
  • In southern Africa today, the size of elephant herds are growing in part because managed conservation techniques can balance the needs and interests of local communities with those of the elephants. Once locals begin appreciating the benefits of wildlife tourism, they gain a major economic stake in protecting their animals. Soon, corruption decreases, herds grow and a reasonable balance between man and animal is achieved.
  • Researchers for the UN Environment Programme, Interpol, and the Ivory Education Institute all conclude that terrorism is not an integral aspect of wildlife trafficking in Africa. There just aren’t enough elephants in the areas where al Shabab, Boko Haram, the Lord’s Resistance Army and other extremist  groups operate to support their financial needs, especially in light of other available more lucrative illegal activities.

Worse, AB 96 assumes that cutting off supply in California will somehow end demand in East Asia. History shows us how other examples of this type of wishful thinking has become failed government policy.

  • Prohibition didn’t stem the supply of alcohol or stop drinking; on the contrary, both increased dramatically.
  • The War on Drugs hasn’t ended marijuana and cocaine use in our society; they are still doing damage on the streets of America.
  • Illegal immigration hasn’t stopped with a fence or increased surveillance technology; it is still going on.

The solution to the ivory question is rooted in managing demand rather than in stopping supply. Specialists involved with ivory believe that a consistent, controlled marketplace for ivory — using tusks in storage, from animals that die of natural causes as well as hunting and culling activities, and ivory that has been recycled — would allow for managed conservation techniques, establish a stable pricing mechanism to satisfy demand, and allow ivory to assume its historic role in our culture.

What follows is a response to the analysis prepared by the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee staff for the hearing on 10 March 2015.

1.   “it is very difficult to determine the age of the ivory.”

This is a total myth. No appraiser, artisan, auctioneer, antique dealer, conservator, collector or curator that handles ivory on a consistent basis has any difficulty determining its probable age, type, or provenance. Moreover, the Ivory Education Institute has sponsored a scientific project to provide government authorities with a non-invasive, non-destructive, inexpensive and quick means of determining the age and type of any ivory or ivory-substitute material. The State of California should be supporting this type of research rather than giving up because the task seems “difficult.”

 2.   “growing demand for elephant ivory … is causing prices to soar for these illegal commodities and the black market for poachers trading in these illegal goods to thrive.”

Most serious and knowledgeable authorities such as Dr. Dan Stiles and Dr. Brendan Moyle (Stiles — a Californian, lives in Kenya and has worked for the UN, most of the NGOs, and now heads a project to protect small apes in Africa. He conducted the NDRC survey that AB 96 is based on. Moyle is from New Zealand, teaches economics at Massey University, and is dedicated to saving endangered species in Africa) believe that ivory prices in Asia have increased because the supply of raw ivory to the 27 legal factories in China has been so uncertain. Rather than providing a consistent supply of tusks from legal sources that the legitimate market can rely on, the market is dependent on erratic releases of legal ivory, existing inventory, recycled pieces, and smuggled ivory that has corruptly been legitimized. Lower prices resulting from a consistent, regulated and legal supply would eliminate the high profit incentive attracting poachers.

 3.   “The United States is one of the largest consumers of illegal ivory in the world,”

Another myth. CITES (the Geneva-based organization enforcing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) has praised the U.S. for the tiny amount of illegal ivory coming into its markets. The latest figures suggest that ICE has confiscated a few pounds of ivory in the last several years, not from professional smuggling operations, but most likely from hapless tourists bringing home a souvenir.

 4.   “California is the second largest U.S. retail market for illegal ivory behind the state of New York.”

This statement sounds worrisome, but it is full of holes. Given the fact that California — with 38.8 million inhabitants — has nearly twice the population of the State of New York (19.75), being second means it is actually miles behind. Then there is the question of how the illegal ivory statistics were developed. We don’t know about New York’s methodology, but we know that California’s “illegal” market is based on a survey conducted by Dan Stiles. He was asked by the Natural Resources Defense Council to visit antique shops, flea markets, auction houses, and the like in Los Angeles and San Francisco to determine the number of items that were “potentially” worked before 1977. As he himself notes, there is a huge quantitative gulf between “potentially” and “probably.” Anyone wanting to cook the numbers can fit nearly everything seen under the rubric of “potentially” while it takes judgment, care, and some demonstrable evidence to make a finding of “probable.”

 5.   “On average, 96 elephants per day are brutally killed for their ivory, translating into an average of over 35,000 elephants per year.”

The World Wildlife Society has a major public relations program called the 96 Campaign and Speaker Adkins had her bill assigned the number 96 to hammer home the message that 96 elephants die per day from poachers. Yet no one has provided a shred of evidence that the number is valid. Those who conduct elephant censuses admit the difficulty of finding the herds in the forest to do an actual count. So they rely on a mixture of calculations based on water hole sightings, dung droppings in particular areas, carcasses found, habitat destruction, historical data, and other guesstimates to estimate elephant populations from year to year. The fact that a decrease in any particular herd might be from natural causes is an inconvenient fact that zealots choose to ignore. While poaching is certainly occurring in north central Africa, the fact that elephant numbers are growing in southern Africa is never mentioned. Finally, the fact that 35,000 elephants would produce 70,000 tusks and the tusks would very conservatively weigh about 10-pounds each, there would be 700,000 pounds of ivory coming into the market each year. Where is it? Who is working this volume of ivory and where are the finished products being sold to sustain continuous buying of this amount? No one has seen anywhere near this amount of ivory — equivalent to the weight of 5 space shuttles or two Victorian houses. Why are those perpetrating this myth of 96 elephants being “brutally killed” each day for their ivory being given a free pass when it comes to the evidence for this highly suspect statement?

 6.   “according to the usfws … [the] legal ivory trade can serve as a cover for illegal trade. as one example, usfws and state officers seized more than two million dollars of illegal elephant ivory from two new york city retail stores in 2012.”

While the US Fish and Wildlife Service always notes this case, it is the ONLY such recent case on record. Rather than being an example of uncontrolled smuggling into the U.S. to satisfy a rampaging demand for ivory products, it is an isolated case of two loose canon merchants who tried to bring in goods from the Far East without the proper paperwork. There are no other cases of any size to support the assertion that the U.S. is a hotbed for smuggled ivory. Moreover, the Assembly analysis accepts another phony concern of the USFWS: “[B]y significantly restricting ivory trade in the United States, it will be more difficult to launder illegal ivory into the market and thus reduce the threat of poaching to imperiled elephant populations.” Since there is so little proven poaching product coming into the United States, ivory laundering — making new pieces appear old — is almost non-existent.

 7.   “numerous news outlets have reported on suspicions (emphasis added) that ivory poaching is becoming a growing source of funding for several terrorist organizations, including the janjaweed militia in sudan and the lord’s resistance army in uganda, and possibly including terrorist groups in Somalia.”

Please. How credible is an analysis that finds “numerous news outlets” (unnamed) have reported “suspicions” (based on what other than thin air assumptions) that poaching could be a source of funding. The Ivory Education Institute engaged Dan Stiles to conduct a study in 2014 on the link between poaching and a threat to U.S. national security. Dan found that “the evidence that … elephant poaching [is used} to finance … terrorist activities … lacking credibility.” The Speaker can’t have it both ways — relying on Dan’s California survey to project the danger to elephants in Africa and then rejecting Dan’s conclusions concerning the danger of poaching to U.S. national security.

 Bottom Line

Putting aside all other arguments, the fundamental fact is that there is absolutely no correlation between the trade and movement of ivory objects in California and the well being of elephants in Africa. Moreover, the rules for ivory ownership settled in 1977 are now being changed without justification. The claim in a Los Angeles Times editorial (June 8, 2015) that “the bill will not go into effect until July 2016. So anyone who wants to sell something will have more than six months to do so.” Either the Times knows nothing of the fire arts marketplace or someone is looking to make a killing in a fire sale marketplace. To ban all ivory — including ancient mammoth and fossilized walrus along with plentiful warthog, boar, and hippo ivory — in the hope of helping African elephants is ludicrous. To deprive Californians of their legitimately obtained property and to render its value in the open market worthless is probably an unconstitutional “taking” at best and unfair in the extreme.

For these reasons the Ivory Education Institute urges you to oppose AB 96.


 Godfrey Harris
Managing Director
Ivory Education Institute

Kenya Ivory Burning


By: Godfrey Harris

Authorities in Kenya set some 15 tons of ivory tusks on fire to show fidelity to World Wildlife Day on March 3rd. As the caption of the picture below that appeared in the next day’s issue of The New York Times noted:

“The event was intended to discourage poaching and illegal ivory trading.”

Kenya Ivory Burning

OK, but how many of the tusks burned that day had nothing to do with poaching because they came from animals that had died of natural causes?

While many of us would question whether an ivory bonfire could have any beneficial effects, it turns out that ivory is highly resistant to this kind of insult. According to Dr. Adolf P. Shvedchikov — the scientist leading the Ivory Education Institute’s effort to find an inexpensive, quick and non-invasive way to determine the type and age of ivory specimens — only about 20% of an elephant’s tusk is organic. That can burn. The rest of the tusk is composed of a mineral called hydroxyapatite [Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2]. While the organic component of a tusk might burn at 300° C with the help of an accelerant, the mineral portion can only decay in temperatures approaching 1000°C — a level of heat that is not easy to obtain.

The Kenyan fire was intended as a great public relations triumph for the animal rights groups. It turns out, however, to be a teachable moment for those who find the current attempts to ban all trade and movement of objects made from or with ivory forlorn. The very fact that the tusks could not be reduced to ash in an outdoor bonfire is one of the reasons why ivory has proven so valuable to cultures around the world. Because of its resistance to fire and decay, it has long been an important repository of historical data, practical uses, and artistic styles. That value should not be denied to our society or to any other on earth. There are ways to protect elephants and maintain a sound trade in tusks if those in authority would only begin to think instead of simply rearranging their prejudices.

About Godfrey Harris:
Godfrey Harris heads a public policy consulting firm in Los Angeles and is principal representative of the Political Action Network of the International Ivory Society.

Elephants and Ivory – The Truth About the Current Situation

A Practical Solution to the Issue

As Published in Perspective

Ivory-ClockLOS ANGELES — The Federal government’s recent effort to ban the sale and movement of objects made from or with ivory has gone quiet for the moment, perhaps in the face of the 2014 political changes in Congress. But the election results certainly haven’t slowed any of the animal rights groups from their concerted effort to demonize ivory.

These groups have simply shifted their disdain for this historic material to state capitals and major cities claiming that the country is swimming in illegal ivory. For proof, one group asked investigators to identify ivory for retail sale that “might possibly” have been worked after 1977. That could literally mean everything they saw since “might possibly” is a lot different than “was probably.” While Virginia has just refused to become involved, California, Washington, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, and Kansas as well as San Francisco and now Los Angeles are being asked to pass anti-ivory legislation contrary to the interests of millions of Americans and thousands of institutions that own ivory objects.

The 2014 Federal effort to convince the world that possessing one of its most precious materials is evil was met with strong opposition from museums, musicians, artisans, antique dealers, appraisers, auctioneers, collectors, hunters, academics, and many ordinary citizens who treasure or use objects containing ivory.

The Federal government’s approach to stopping elephant poaching seemed flawed from the outset:

  • Since the market for illegal ivory products is overwhelmingly in East Asia — certifiably not the U.S. — why punish Americans for owning something that had been legally obtained; is of immense artistic, practical, historic, and scientific importance; and has been widely admired since time immemorial?
  • How can banning trade in important cultural artifacts carved from fossilized walrus or from mammoth and mastodon tusks — animals that have been extinct for tens of thousands of years — have anything realistically to do with saving African elephants today?
  • Why is it that expert opinion is good enough to determine the authenticity of paintings worth millions of dollars, but the Feds insists on seeing written documentation that never existed to determine whether an ivory object is legal or fake? Who has ever acquired a craftsman’s original invoice for an ivory object he made?
  • Why is it that public officials assume that the millions of ordinary citizens who have inherited or preserved countless memorable and culturally important ivory pieces can be thrown under the bus in favor of a handful of vocal animal rights extremists who claim that banning ivory in America is the most important way to save African elephants that they repeatedly claim are about to become extinct?

Elephants-trunkOnly someone who hasn’t been paying attention would miss the answer to these questions. It is MONEY! Insisting on ending the trade and movement of ivory objects to save elephants and stop terrorism raises large amounts from sympathetic donors. It doesn’t much matter whether the picture is of a bull elephant taken down for its tusks or a film of two young calves playing in the mud, elephants generate enormous interest, sympathy and smiles that translate into large contributions.

The more money that elephants can raise for animal rights groups, of course, the more powerful their leaders become in the scheme of governance. They are able to entertain lavishly, travel extensively and underwrite research generously and they can conduct surveys, buy ads and produce documentaries to raise even more money. But most of all they can pay themselves impressive salaries and make eye-opening contributions to support the reelection of like-minded politicians under the protection of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Elephants-FamilyWhat a combination: Admired wild animals threatened by greedy, uncaring humans are saved by the concern of government leaders across the country. Impressive, but basically a fraud. Elephant numbers have been diminishing in certain parts of Africa, but not in others — and where the numbers are going down, the causes are not solely East Asian demand for ivory. While elephant herds have clearly suffered from the activities of poachers serving criminal gangs in the northern areas of central Africa, that isn’t the full story of the cause of the reduction in some herds.

  • An estimated 15% of the elephants that the extremists say are “killed” by poachers each year are actually dying from natural causes. Old age, disease, and accidents catch up with elephants just as they do with humans. Moreover, elephants everywhere in Africa and Asia are in competition with humans for land. Elephants need enormous quantities of space to forage for food and water. Some have been eliminated by locals intent on saving their crops and villages from destruction and some have been hunted as a source of food.
  • In southern parts of Africa, the same competition arises but the size of the elephant herds are growing in part because managed conservation techniques, where practiced, can balance the needs and interests of local communities with those of the elephants. Once locals begin appreciating the benefits of wildlife tourism, they gain a major economic stake in protecting their animals. Soon, corruption decreases, herds grow and a reasonable balance between man and animal is achieved. Ancillary benefits can come from selling the tusks of deceased and culled elephants with the money used to improve living conditions.
  • Researchers for the UN Environment Programme, Interpol, and the Ivory Education Institute all conclude that terrorism is not an integral aspect of wildlife trafficking in Africa. There just aren’t enough elephants in the areas where al Shabab, Boko Haram, or the Lord’s Resistance Army are operating to support their financial needs, especially while other much more lucrative illegal funding sources are available to them.

But animal rights advocates, who live in big Western cities and often are unaware of human factors on the ground in Africa, have been convinced to view any ivory market as an incentive for poachers. They point to how a 2008 one-time sale of tusks only whetted appetites for more ivory in an insatiable wave of demand. Not true. The evidence from reputable researchers indicates that the one time sale was absorbed by speculators betting on a lack of a consistent future supply and that fear pushed the price of the remaining available ivory up, in turn increasing the incentive for poachers to do their evil. It is still going on. As long as people believe that they can repeal the laws of supply and demand, illegal activities and a black market will flourish.

Most of us don’t have to go too deeply into history to see other examples of the wishful thinking of naive do-gooders turned into expensive, failed government policy.

  • Prohibition didn’t stem the supply of alcohol or stop drinking; on the contrary, both increased dramatically.
  • The War on Drugs hasn’t ended marijuana and cocaine on American streets; they are still doing damage.
  • Illegal immigration hasn’t stopped with a fence or increased surveillance technology; it is still going on.

The solution to the ivory question is rooted in managing demand rather than in trying to end supply. Specialists in ivory believe that if a consistent, controlled ivory marketplace were established and properly managed— using tusks in storage, tusks from animals that die of natural causes as well as culling practices, and ivory that has been recycled — it would allow for managed conservation techniques, establish a stable pricing mechanism to satisfy demand, and allow for ivory to be used for many of its historic purposes.

The notion that American consumption of ivory products stimulates Asian demand is a myth perpetrated by animal extremists abetted by zealous public relations firms. Where is their evidence? There is, in fact, no measurable U.S. demand for ivory objects from newly harvested tusks. State and city legislators should not buy into the kind of wooly thinking or wobbly reasoning being advanced by animal rights advocates.

They are in the game of manipulating elected officials to raise MONEY for their
organizations, not to save elephants in Africa. If they were serious about the latter effort, they
would stop using scare tactics, spreading false statistics, and offering half-truths, and start
spending more of their huge resources on Africa’s real conservation needs.

About Perspective:
Perspective — Understanding the News in Context,  is a periodical publication of Ivory Education Institute. The above article was published in the Vol. 2, No.1 issue on February 10, 2015.

Can Elephants Survive a Continued Ivory Trade Ban? — A Comment

ng_logo_smallThis post is a comment by Andre DeGeorges to an article by Daniel Stiles in the National Geographic’s website  that was published on September 15, 2014. You can read the article here:   Can Elephants Survive a Continued Ivory Trade Ban?

By: Andre DeGeorges

I still feel a few important issues are ignored in general, even by the sustainable use crowd. The key word is POVERTY and Ron Thomson seems to be the shepherd boy crying wolf and no one is listening. Unless people are lifted out of poverty in Africa, the habitat for elephant and other species will go and more and more elephant will be exterminated either as pests, as revenge killings – like rhino and lion have been in East Africa, and even poached.

Africa’s human majority subsistence population will more than double in the 21st century and along with that will be attempts at increasing their livestock as a source of wealth and food – unless pressure can be taken off these rural areas. As already discussed, Zimbabwean PH Andy Wilkinson coined the phrase “Politics of Despair” with people in a survival mode rotating between the rural areas and urban slums – mining Sub-Saharan Africa’s natural resources

What does this mean:

  1. An equitable portion of wealth from elephant and other natural resources must accrue to the people living with the wildlife/timber/strategic minerals, etc. – as opposed to today where the majority goes to governments and the private sector – but to be negotiated with the private sector since at this point in Africa’s development rural people do not have the marketing contacts to make this happen.
  2. Foreign aid must change from 70-90% going back to the donor countries via NGOs, consulting firms, so-called “experts”, conditions precedents (e.g., buy America or Europe) and be channelled to remain in Africa for health and education.
  3. Like China, a large portion of what is today Foreign Aid must go to subsidizing the West’s private sector in the form of low interest loans, in high risks areas – grants, and even infrastructure – to invest in Africa and help Africa get added value from transformation of a higher percentage of its natural resources in Africa. The existing taxidermy industry in Southern Africa is a good example, as is trophy & biltong hunting. South Africa probably has the largest formal bush meat trade in the world readily available in butcheries throughout the country. Additional added value is obtained from souvenirs and household items made from game skins and horn – from rugs & wall hangings to knife handles, cork screw handles and bottle openers. Zimbabwe’s game skin Courteney boots are world famous among hunters! South Africa has an excellent diamond cutting/jewelry industry and to a lesser degree Tanzania (e.g., tanzanite) and Kenya produce gemstone jewelry. South Africa then has various outlets such as Mervis Diamonds in the U.S. ( ). Added value can happen with many other natural resources such as COLTAN to make microchips and tropical hardwoods to make furniture for export, etc.
  4. Salaries must be based upon Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) – not slave wages – that is local cost of living as a means of creating a middle class and taking pressure off the rural areas and adequate pollution controls – unlike the Athi River Industrial area on the edge of Nairobi!!

What this means is that Africa must experience Economic Development, and not just Economic Growth (increasing GDP) as is the case today, if the World wishes to see Africa’s people and wildlife have a future. And yes – if this poverty is not overcome expect to also see an increase in Radical Islam & the political Instability that follows it. As I see it the rise in Radical Islam, Increased Poaching, habitat loss and even the projected increase in population (when you are poor with no retirement & a high infant mortality you have plenty of kids to assure security in old age & besides as in my Mom’s generations – her 11 brothers and sisters were cheap farm labor), & mass migrations out of Africa into Europe and South Africa are indices of Poverty that if not overcome will lead to increased poverty, political chaos and the demise of Africa’s unique biodiversity and charismatic mega-fauna .

The above may not be what the West wishes for Africa – I mean what are a few elephant compared to control over access to Africa’s oil and strategic metals; as cheaply as possible. Chaos often facilitates the extraction and under-priced sale of natural resources as we see in the Eastern DRC and even with the black marketing of ivory and rhino horn – where the middlemen & end users, not the people living among the resources, make the majority of the profits. When you are in a survival mode – most people will take any risk necessary to meet their daily needs. That’s why a large middle class tends to increase the likelihood of both political stability and a population willing to buy into modern concepts of biodiversity and conservation.

In simple terms, suppose tomorrow the average American/European found the supermarkets closed and/or we went back into another Great Depression that put people in a survival mode. Within a short time – I’d say a week or maybe two – why poaching, stealing, robberies, etc. would spike as people would do whatever it takes to survive! The majority of Africans are in a Survival Mode! I know I am repeating to some degree what I have said before, but while Daniel’s analysis is critical, it is but one small piece to a larger puzzle that must be constructed if Africa and its people are to have a future.

Conservation, marketing of elephant and rhino products, etc. will fail unless part of a bigger picture.
Say – why can’t Africa develop a major ivory carving business as a means of obtaining added value? Senegal had some good ivory carvers and if the African art I collected over the years is any indication of Africa’s potential – this should be looked at very closely!

Anyway, there will be no Free Lunches. Unless Africa/Africans takes/take control of its/their own destiny – don’t expect the West or China to see you through your current crisis.

About Andre DeGeorges:
Dr. Andre DeGeorges has over 30 years of experience in natural resource management, planning and policy reform in Africa, the Caribbean, Central America and the United States. Dr. DeGeorges retired from the Department of Nature Conservation, Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Pretoria, South Africa, in 2008, where from 2002 onward he was manager of Project Noah, a program to train youth from regions of Africa rich in wildlife in natural resource management while exposing them to the economic value of wildlife. He is currently an active commentator on conservation.