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AFRICAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION URGES PRESIDENT BUSH TO 'STAY THE COURSE' FOR THE AFRICAN ELEPHANT

         AFRICAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION URGES PRESIDENT BUSH TO
             'STAY THE COURSE' FOR THE AFRICAN ELEPHANT
    WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The Bush administration has announced it will entertain moves to reduce protection for the endangered African elephant -- scarcely two years after U.S. led efforts to save elephants from extinction.  The action to remove the elephant from the list of endangered species may occur next week at a meeting in Kyoto, Japan of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
    African Wildlife Foundation's President, Dr. Paul Schindler says: "The administration's position would represent virtually a complete reversal of the action taken at the previous meeting of CITES in 1989 and an ironic step for the 'Environmental President.'"
    The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and other responsible conservation groups question the move in light of three facts:
    1.  Due to long gestation of elephants, there has been virtually no increase in numbers since the ban on trade in ivory went into effect in early 1990.
    2.  The infrastructure of the 36 African countries with elephants to protect ivory stores or control ivory poachers has not improved in that time.
    3.  The worldwide appetite for ivory has been barely blunted in the last two years.
    Schindler asks:  "Since nothing has changed in scarcely two years, why the rush to reduce the protection?  Was the administration's position wrong in 1989 or is it wrong now?"
    Some observers feel that the pressure on the administration from Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa has been effective far beyond expectation.  Those countries maintain that they have dangerously large herds of elephant that damage the environment, but this has never been verified by outside, objective scientific reports.  Zambian authorities withdrew their request to trade in elephant parts saying the real need is to improve anti-poaching and that a return to trade would be premature.  AWF agrees.
    The administration says it would support only trade in elephant hide and meat, not ivory.  But, as the U.S. cannot control profitable trade in illegal substances such as cocaine, African countries cannot control illegal trade in poached ivory.  The rangers and wardens in the parks lack the vehicles, guns and training to beat back better equipped poachers.  Less than 20 percent of the ivory that left Africa in the dozen years before the ban went into effect was legal ivory.  The rest came from poachers who flooded the legal stream with thousands of tons of ivory taken by mowing down elephant families with automatic weapons.
    Even on the rumors of the action such as that now taken by the U.S., poaching has picked up.  Two rangers were killed and others injured in Meru National Park in Kenya some days back by poachers who reportedly said that they had heard that the ivory trade would begin soon.
    Schindler stated:  "Whether or not the Bush administration believes 'Only Elephants Should Wear Ivory,' it is hard to understand why they would take steps that could kill off the very symbol of their party."
    -0-                              2/27/92
    /CONTACT:  Elizabeth McCorkle of the African Wildlife Foundation, 202-265-8393/ CO:  African Wildlife Foundation ST:  District of Columbia IN: SU: PS-AH -- NY099 -- 3541 02/27/92 19:54 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Feb 27, 1992
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