To the President of the National Geographic Society

Following email communication was sent to Mr. Knell, President of the National Geographic Society on March 1, 2018

Dear Mr. Knell:

POLITICO for February 28, 2018 quotes you as follows:

“100 elephants a day are being slaughtered for ivory.” Given the prestige of the National Geographic Society and the incomparable platform it offers you, I would hope that you could prove the number of elephants you claim are poached per day before you repeat that number again in public. The Humane Society of the United States has long claimed 96 per day (derived from a 2010 estimate of 35,000 elephants killed in a 12 month period divided by 365.)

As you know, the Speaker of the California Assembly adopted the number for a bill she sponsored that bans virtually all ivory trading in the state. That bill became law. But as we note in our lawsuit appeal arguing to have the law declared unconstitutional, the number was never proven, details were never provided, the caveats accompanying the number were never revealed and a differentiation between animals killed for their ivory and those that died of natural causes was never established by any responsible public official in California.

The number has become the opposite of an urban myth; it is the big lie repeated so often that it takes on a Goebbels-like ring of verified truth. Check with the Natural Resources Defense Council. They use the number as if it were brought down from Mt. Sinai by Moses. Please do not add to the intellectual dishonesty this number implies by associating the National Geographic Society with its dubious provenance.

And one more thing. When groups like the Society publicly lament the death of elephants without equal concern for the rural populations who live among them and for the damage the elephants do to the land they occupy, these groups are playing into the hands of the poachers. Nothing the gangs that control the poachers want more than a limit on ivory supply without any alteration in demand. That, of course, increases the price of raw ivory and makes poaching even more lucrative. Ever think that what you are doing by addressing only a part of the elephant equation may do greater damage  than might occur without your intervention?

Godfrey Harris
Managing Director, Ivory Education Institute
520 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 204
Los Angeles, CA 90049-3534 USA