Category Archives: Key Articles

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.