From: The Honorable Donald S. Beyer, Jr.
Sent By:
gilbert.mears@mail.house.gov

Date: 9/19/2016

Current co-signers (34): Beyer, Blumenauer, Brownley, Capuano, Cárdenas, Cicilline, Connolly, Conyers, Cummings, DeFazio, Deutch, Edwards, Ellison, Engel, Farr, Garamendi, Grayson, Grijalva, Honda, Keating, Langevin, Lofgren,
Lowenthal, Lynch, McNerney, Nadler, Quigley, Schiff, Smith (Adam), Titus, Tonko, Van Hollen, Velázquez, and Yarmuth

Dear Colleague,

I invite you to join me in sending a letter to Sec. Jewell (DOI) urging that the U.S. delegation pursue a strong stance on CITES listing of the African elephant.

By way of background, elephants across most of their African habitat countries have endured severe poaching in recent years, with losses often totaling more than 30,000 fatalities per year. Certain decisions made under CITES, the UN-administered endangered
species treaty, are unfortunately responsible for a large share of the current crisis.  Although African elephants were classified under Appendix I (banning international trade) in 1989 – with strong U.S. support – CITES subsequently down-listed the elephants
of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, in addition to authorizing “one-off experimental” sales totaling about 150 tons of ivory.  These actions provided a rejuvenated market into which enormous volumes of contraband ivory is being laundered.

CNN
recently reported
 that a new study found that “there are far fewer African elephants than we thought.”

At this year’s CITES conference, 29 countries of the African Elephant Coalition, including many of America’s allies, are sponsoring a proposal that would restore all African elephants to CITES Appendix I. These are countries that have suffered intense poaching
in recent years and are appealing for support in their efforts to suppress the criminal exploitation of their elephants.  The United States has been unfortunately silent on the Appendix I issue and, to date, has not announced its position.

The United States has recently made important policy advances to protect elephant populations and combat the devastating effects of widespread poaching: a near complete prohibition of domestic ivory markets, the destruction of ivory stockpiles, and the creation
of a Presidential Task Force on Combatting Wildlife Trafficking – all of which have been warmly welcomed by many Members of Congress as well as by the conservation community. Yet, despite these crucial efforts, the United States runs the risk of equivocating
on the most important initiative of all: the restoration of all African elephants to CITES Appendix I.

If you are interested in signing on to this letter, please contact Gilbert Mears (gilbert.mears@mail.house.gov) by
COB Sept. 19.

 

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Dear Secretary Jewell:

Elephants across most of their African habitat countries have endured severe poaching in recent years, with losses totaling more than 30,000 fatalities per year, for several years on end.  Certain decisions made by the Convention on the International Trade
in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the UN-administered endangered species treaty, are unfortunately responsible for a large share of the current crisis. Although African elephants were classified under Appendix I in 1989–with strong U.S.
support–CITES subsequently down-listed the elephants of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, in addition to authorizing “one-off experimental” sales totaling about 150 tons of ivory. These actions provided a rejuvenated market into which enormous
volumes of contraband ivory is being laundered.

The United States has recently made important policy advances to protect elephant populations and combat the devastating effects of widespread poaching: a near complete prohibition of domestic ivory markets, the destruction of ivory stockpiles, and the creation
of a Presidential Task Force on Combating Wildlife Trafficking–all of which have been warmly welcomed by many Members of Congress as well as by the conservation community. Yet despite these crucial efforts, the United States runs the risk of equivocating
on the most important initiative of all: the restoration of all African elephants to CITES Appendix I, a classification which prohibits commercial trade globally.

CITES will be meeting again for its triennial session from September 24 to October 5, 2016 in South Africa. Twenty-nine countries of the African Elephant Coalition, including many of America’s allies, are sponsoring and encouraging a proposal that would
restore all African elephants to CITES Appendix I. These countries, which represent the vast majority of African elephant range states, have suffered intense poaching in recent years and are appealing for support in their efforts to suppress the criminal exploitation
of their elephants. The United States has been unfortunately silent on the Appendix I issue and, to date, has not announced its position. There is serious apprehension in the conservation community that the United States may oppose restoring all elephants
to CITES Appendix I.

The recent census data released last month–a mere 352,271 savanna elephants in the entire African continent–reveal a catastrophic decline and provide further evidence for the need to take immediate action. It is critically important for the United States
to announce its support for the CITES Appendix I listing of all African elephants, and to give that support substance by presenting interventions and casting votes at the CITES upcoming meeting. The reasons for this include:

1. The only time in recent history when elephants enjoyed relative peace from poaching pressure were the years 1990–1997, when all populations were on CITES Appendix I, and there was no question that any commercial trade in ivory was illegal. These years
represent the “gold standard” for elephants, and provide clear evidence that the Appendix I listing works better than any other mechanism.

2. The United States played a leading role in achieving the 1989 Appendix I listing, but any uncertainty or wavering with respect to the present Administration’s CITES policy will surely be noticed by ivory trade interests and potentially interpreted as
a signal that the U.S. may support legalized ivory trade in the near future.

3. The present “split-listing” of elephant populations is inconsistent with the text of CITES that was ratified by the United States government. That text defines “species” as “any species, subspecies, or geographically separate population thereof” (Article
I (a)). The elephants of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe are not a separate species. Nor are they a separate subspecies. Nor are they a “geographically separate population.” Rather, these elephants freely migrate across international borders and
interbreed with other elephants outside of the identified countries. They are not “geographically separate” and consequently they should not be subject to a separate listing within the treaty.

4. Twenty-nine countries seek American support for the Appendix I listing. These include most of the elephant range states. For most, the ramifications of this proposal extend far beyond the saving these animals. Important cornerstones of national economies,
especially the ability to generate foreign revenue, are tied to this issue. Ivory trafficking is persistently linked to crime and violence–smuggling, fraud, conspiracy, corruption, money laundering, intimidation, and homicide. U.S. government agencies have
repeatedly established the connection between the ivory trade and violent militias and terrorist groups around the world.

The need for consistency in interpretation and application of CITES, the enormous practical value of listing all elephants under Appendix I, and the experiences and appeals of the large majority of elephant range states make it abundantly clear that strong
and vocal support for an Appendix I listing is the best course of action if the United States is to remain a leader in conservation and in the global fight to combat the poaching crisis that continues to fuel widespread devastation and drive elephants towards
extinction. Thank you for considering our request.

 

Sincerely,

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