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Kerry writes: "The United States is sending a simple but powerful message to the sadistic poachers who kill elephants and other animals, and to all the traffickers who transport illicit cargo and the consumers who purchase these illicit goods."

An elephant in Kenya. (photo: Reuters)
An elephant in Kenya. (photo: Reuters)

The Crush on Wildlife

By John Kerry, Reader Supported News

15 November 13


oday, in Denver, the Department of the Interior is destroying the United States' entire stock of confiscated contraband ivory -- totaling nearly six tons.

With this action, the United States is sending a simple but powerful message to the sadistic poachers who kill elephants and other animals, and to all the traffickers who transport illicit cargo and the consumers who purchase these illicit goods: "You cannot and must not mistake our seriousness."

We're not in this fight alone. We are building on the work of Kenya, Gabon, and the Philippines, which have destroyed their ivory stocks in recent years. We encourage other countries to take a strong stand against wildlife trafficking by destroying their ivory stockpiles.

But make no mistake: The world needs to do more. Time is not on our side.

One night last year, American scientists at the Dzangha-Bai reserve in the Central African Republic were forced to abandon a long-term elephant research site in the middle of the night due to instability in the area. When they returned the following day, the scientists discovered an unspeakable scene: The herd of elephants they had observed for decades was dead and tusk-less. Criminals had shot the defenseless elephants from the very research platform where they had been studied for so many years.

This is not an isolated incident. When my wife Teresa and I visited a wildlife preserve and went on safari in 2007, I heard tragic story after story of similar episodes. Last year, we held the Foreign Relations Committee's first ever hearing on wildlife trafficking to underscore the extent of the crisis.

Slaughters of wildlife have grown exponentially. The scale, pace, and sophistication of elephant and rhino poaching are accelerating at a devastating pace. Not only are these majestic animals disappearing before us, as poachers grow in sophistication and firepower, this explosion in trafficking undermines the stability and security of range states, and imperils those whose livelihoods depend on these great creatures and ecosystems.

We do not have the luxury of time. We must act urgently and raise public awareness.

Just yesterday, on November 13, I announced a reward of up to $1 million for information to help dismantle the Xaysavang Network, one of the most prolific wildlife trafficking organizations currently in operation. This is the first reward offer under our Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program. Criminals and their accomplices are on notice.

And it's not just elephants and rhinos on the losing side of the rifles and machine guns. The accelerating demand for animal skin, pelts, bones and organs is decimating species across the world. When one species is gone, poachers move onto the next. If the current trajectory continues, many of these animals will go extinct during my grandchildren's lifetimes.

Reducing demand is part of any successful strategy to meet this challenge. Consumers can and must be partners with governments in disrupting the market incentives for traffickers. Because the reality is that prices for ivory and rhino horn are skyrocketing, which in turn leads to the knock down effects of more involvement of transnational organized criminals and other destabilizing elements, more corruption, and more collateral damage. Illicit funds allow poachers to ramp up their firepower and employ ruthless tactics that jeopardize communities and rule of law in countries across the globe. In Africa, poachers kill more than one hundred park rangers in the line of duty annually.

Wildlife trafficking is a conservation problem, an economic problem, a health problem, and a security problem. Our governments and citizens cannot afford to stand idle while poachers and wildlife traffickers destabilize whole regions, undermine economic development, and hunt elephants, rhinos, tigers, bears, sharks, or any species to extinction. Leaders everywhere must step up and meet the challenge of rooting out the corruption, graft, and complicity in the system that threaten all of us. The United States is committed to doing our part. Let's move forward. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

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Founder, Reader Supported News

-10 # nice2blucky 2013-11-15 16:52
Today John Kerry is celebrating what is typical of Democrats, nothing; even worse, he is celebrating failure.

The confiscated tusks, themselves, represent -- not only the real problem of poaching -- the tusks represent the failure to protect these creatures from tragic slaughter.

After the announcement of the proposed destruction of the contraband ivory, many readers expressed dismay over that decision to destroy. Before destruction, the contraband ivory has value; that value can be used for good.

John Kerry writes: "With this action, the United States is sending a simple but powerful message to the sadistic poachers who kill elephants and other animals, and to all the traffickers who transport illicit cargo and the consumers who purchase these illicit goods: "You cannot and must not mistake our seriousness."'

Does he really think sending a meaningless message is better than funding groups, who already dedicated to protecting endangered species and wildlife from inhumane, greed-driven slaughter, yet often lack resources to be more effective?
+12 # Richard1908 2013-11-15 22:43
All well and good, but with global warming we'll all be poached (or fried) sooner rather than later. And although the cruelty and destruction of wildlife is to be deplored, it's a pity America doesn't do something for human life in its own country - the poor, the starving, those on death row and the millions incarcerated would be a good start.
+13 # Marieke 2013-11-15 23:02
Richard, you're correct. But two wrongs don't make a right, and you have to start somewhere. Kerry's bailiwick is not the US, so he's doing what he can, and I applaud him for it. Nice2blucky's nasty first sentences don't contribute at all to any kind of solution to any kind of problem. It's just partisan blather.
-13 # handmjones 2013-11-16 07:50
Do you have any idea what you are talking about? What percentage of the greenhouse effect do you think is attributable to human emissions of carbon dioxide?
+4 # ruttaro 2013-11-16 15:36
Just about all of it! How can I say that? Because we can measure the types of CO2 in the atmosphere i.e. the isotopes. There are three: carbon 12, carbon 13, and carbon 14. Carbon 14 is radioactive and dies out, if you will, after so many thousands of years which is why we use it to "date" things. Carbon 13 is emitted from volcanos where the liquid rocks - lava - emit carbon as well as other gases. Only carbon 12 is emitted from burning fossil fuels and that is the only one that is increasing and at an accelerated rate. The others have remained stable throughout this time. Sequestered underground we have been burning them for energy which is releasing the CO2 faster than the Earth can absorb it. As the industrial age took off the demand for energy took off with it. We have evidence from ice cores to tree rings that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing. We have measures from the atmosphere confirming that the last century was the worst in 400,000 years and we have broken through the 400ppm level in April of this year. The only thing moving faster and steeper is the moron factor in the Congressional Tea Party reps who are bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry. Having said all this, this article is about the soon-to-be extinct elephant in Africa and the need to ban all trade in ivory PERIOD. Let's stay on topic!
+7 # James38 2013-11-16 01:24
The UN charter needs to be changed so that no dictatorship is recognized as a legitimate government.

All failed states must be reorganized for the benefit if the poor and disenfranchised , the citizens who have no voice in such places.

The poachers thrive in lawless and chaotic places where humans are suffering and defenseless just as are the other animals.

We need to recognize our kinship with all life, and quit the superiority game. "Animals" so called, have emotions, they grieve, they laugh, they play, and they suffer. In one study a male elephant clearly demonstrated that he understood that his tusks were a dire danger to his life. He would try very hard to hide his tusks from view whenever humans were around.

We humans are well on the way to destroying out only home, planet Earth, and yet many "powerful" executives and politicians are still fixated on making money by drilling for more oil, digging for more coal, and fracking for more gas - and killing for tusks and horns and hides.

We hear talk of "human civilization". We are NOT civilized at all. We are in the thrall of madmen and monsters.

Kerry is right. I do question the wisdom of destroying the ivory stockpiles. It seems that legal sales might have helped finance the war on poaching, but done is done, and in the long run only enforced rules and a change of consciousness will protect our cousins in the "animal" world.

We must also focus on protecting the whole planet.
+7 # NAVYVET 2013-11-16 07:02
". . .no dictatorship is recognized as a legitimate government. All failed states must be reorganized for the benefit if the poor and disenfranchised , the citizens who have no voice in such places."

Including the US?
+4 # RMDC 2013-11-16 09:20
The US is the great satan of failed states. It's policies have created more failed states than have existed in all human history. The crusade to save the wild animals is just another strategy to create failed states.

Even the term "failed states" is part of the US crusade to destroy other peoples lives. The term was fabricated by the Bush I administration and especially Cheney and Rumsfeld as a pretext for invasion.

The US is a failed state. It has failed to live up to the "UN General Convention on the Friendly Relations Among Nations." This piece of international law requires nations to respect the sovereignty and culture of all other nations.
+1 # ruttaro 2013-11-16 15:46
CITES opened the door for limited ivory sales and look what happened to elephants in Africa. I was at the crushing with my students from the University of Denver. We were outside the gates giving support and expressing gratitude that theUS is doing this. There were tusks not much longer than a foot that went to the crusher. They were tusks from 8 to 10 year old elephants. WHen one thinks that an elephant can live to be 65 to 70 years old, those were just like our ten year old children slaughtered for a body part. As long as the demand for ivory is going up faster than the supply, old elephants are disappearing fast and the younger ones are being cut down for thier smaller tusks. Human greed is going to remove from creation one of the most majestic, sentient creatures, full of intelligence, able to communicate to the each other complex actions, create thick, social bonds, each individual with a unique personality - greed for trinkets and status - will drive them into extinction in 10 to 20 years. If we allow for some ivory to be sold, the poachers will use that opening to continue the slaughter trying to meet an insatiable demand. Demand has to be changed but in the meantime, suply has to be cut off. My students formed a group called "A World With…" and they are saying a world with elephants is better than one without. All should ask Richard Ruggiero's question: Is the world better with elephants or without? How we deal with ivory will be our answer!
+3 # Richard1908 2013-11-16 01:32
James 38, I agree with you close to 100%. The best outcome would be if somehow Homo sapiens were to be banished and Planet Earth and its flora and fauna went on in their natural state of existence.
+7 # LML 2013-11-16 02:20
I think I am missing the logic is destroying all this ivory making it even rarer and more expensive going to achieve a reduction in paoching?
0 # ruttaro 2013-11-16 16:01
Ivory is not like other illicit products. Unlike our attempts at prohibition in the 20s and our current war on drugs, elephants cannot regenerate at a sustainable rate. Let's set aside the ethical/moral question about killing them for trinkets and human greed and look at the economics. Neoclassic economic analysis is misleading and a simplistic, nonsensical method of trying to justify ivory sales. First, look at drugs. Cocaine and marijuana come from plants/crops that can replenish or be cut back to adjust to demand. It's rather quick price signaling. Elephants reproduce slowly. Tusks don't start appearing until the elephant until around 5 or 6. And the tusks grow slowly, too. Now demand for ivory continues to grow and the old elephants (the grandmothers and mothers) and old bulls are now mostly gone. So demand continues and the poachers take younger elephants until they take ones who haven't even reached maturity to reproduce. You get the picture. This why they will be extinct. Elephants can't be raised like cattle, either. They need too much food and water, and they roam large areas in serch of it. ANy elephant raised for its ivory would be so expensive that poaching would provide much larger profit margins. So we can't go that way. Trophy hunting can't supply the demand and already is another loophole for poached tusks to enter the market. Let's just make it all illegal - total ban and stop applying the nonsense of neoclassic economics and the Cato institute.
-2 # James Marcus 2013-11-16 03:40
How about 'Send in the Marines'?
Finally, a just cause for intervention.

Hunt the hunters. No trial. No mercy. Capture them. Cut them. Tie them to trees Feed them, alive, to the great cats.
+10 # Glen 2013-11-16 05:56
Oh great, Marcus, attack still another country, this time for elephants rather than energy resources. Yep. It is obvious that this practice is extremely heinous, and all posters in this thread expressed that nicely.

Just don't encourage the Marines. They've already done enough damage.
+2 # RMDC 2013-11-16 09:16
Kerry's language is aggressive and offensive to anyone who cares about national sovereignty. so what is he going to do. Bomb the people of Africa. Kerry represents the same government that is killing all the wild horses in the west and is exterminating the desert tortoises in the southwest.

The US has always used the protection of wildlife in other countries as a way to gain some control of the natural resources of those countries. Kerry does not really care about wild animals anywhere on earth. He's a front man for the corporate grab of all resources.

I recommend that everyone read Raymond Bonner's "At the Hand of Man: Peril and Hope for Africa's Wildlife." He exposes the hypocrisy of foreign "protectors" of wildlife in Africa.

If Kerry cared about wild animals, he should take a look at the record of his own country - the US where all big animals have been exterminated or confined to prisons in National Parks, tagged and monitored every hour.

I don't see Kerry talking about the fate of wildlife in the Niger Delta where oil companies have totally destroyed the environment. Or eastern Congo where mineral mining has destroyed the environment.

"Wildlife trafficking is a conservation problem, an economic problem, a health problem, and a security problem." So now he will add wildlife to the global war on terror. Kerry is an asshole. Animals hate him and his type.
+3 # Glen 2013-11-16 10:51
Excellent observations and comments, RMDC. It is far too easy to get caught up in the moment of declaring a war on poachers or any person who defiles life. Getting caught up in that rhetoric blinds one to what the reality is. The U.S. definitely is an environmental criminal, but as in all other stage show monologue within the government, politicians can be depicted as the savior of the environment.

Thank you for the reminder.
+1 # Innocent Victim 2013-11-16 10:52
First, the editor of RSN, should have identified "John Kerry" as the present Secretary of State. Reading on in the article, I came to that conclusion: if not, both Kerrys have a wife named "Teresa".
With that assurance, I ask the editor why we are presented an article in sympathy with wildlife by a man with little sympathy for human life, John Kerry, Sec'y of State and former Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ho-House candidate, an imperialist, droner, environmental destroyer, and Vicar of Bray?
+3 # reiverpacific 2013-11-16 11:32
To cut to the heart of the matter, CHINA is at the bottom of this in it's thirst for a kind of organic Viagra and should be confronted directly.
Trouble is The US is in so much debt to them that they can flip such attempts off.
So air-drop a huge cache of "Wanker's Dream" pills on them.
The US is actually acting quite correctly here, as they've been sending in special forces for some time to nab these filthy unscrupulous poachers, who are only doing the bidding of the markets.
0 # ruttaro 2013-11-16 16:16
I like your idea. I suggest we subsidize the makers of Viagra to give free pills out for a year with anyone who also purchases body parts of slaughtered animals. Instructions would be: "Take one pill on a day when you do not use any other 'stimulant'. Then ask your wife what one she thinks works. We'll see you soon."

And you are right about the special forces but let's not forget that many of the most egregious poaching/slaugh tering is done by terrorist organizations and African Armies who will use RPGs and AK 47's to wipe out entire herds so they can get the ivory without dealing with babies and adolescents. Many elephants are seriously wounded in these attacks, their legs broken or mutilated so that they can't move. Then the Al Qaeda or Al Shabob come in with axes and chain saws and cut off trunks, and hack off faces to get to the tusks while the elephant is still alive. I know this won't be popular to say on this RSN, but if I saw this, Jesus I would shoot the bastards on the spot without mercy. But that darkness where I would go is at least countered by a group of college students I am privileged to be advising. These kids are working very hard to stop the poaching by raising awareness and decreasing the demand. They want a world with elephants, and rhinos and rainforests and healthy oceans. I know that their way is the right way and their light keeps my darkness at bay.
0 # tomo 2013-11-16 13:14
Kerry was a weak candidate in 2004, deeply wounded by his senate vote authorizing his opponent, G.W., to invade Iraq. Lately however he has 1) given evidence of trying to table longstanding American battle plans for the destruction of Iran, 2) taken up the novel notion--novel that is for an American diplomat--that Palestinians have rights, and now 3) expressed in a dramatic way a deep contempt for the obscene trade in ivory. For onlookers to say: "Hey, wait a second--look at all the good things he hasn't done!" seems almost to banish the exercise of hope from human affairs.
+2 # barbaratodish 2013-11-17 08:05
"I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind
that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then,
and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and
while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a
soul in prison, I am not free"
Eugene Victor Debs
How this applies to the article on wildlife, is that even the visitors to zoos and tourists on safaris are as responsible, even though indirectly, for the crimes of poaching, etc., if they deny their oneness with all of nature and insist on judgmental differenciating . Instead of making excuses for the poachers, even if they WERE all desperate and in trying to survive any way they could, they, too are unjustified unless and until THERE is zero hope of fleeing so one has only fighting for survival left. (Consider the cannibalism paradox of a "lifeboat" scenario etc.) Let's all try to use our energy to transcend the negativity involved in competition and start to all cooperate.
+1 # RLF 2013-11-18 07:14
The biggest threat to elephants and sea turtles is the disposable income in China. The number of fake oriental antiques currently in antique stores and flea markets in the US is staggering. It is all shipped right in, no problem. Europe has an active trade in tortoise for luxury goods...especia lly Italy...making all of the high fashion items for the rich. Funny ho another problem is exacerbated by the concentration of wealth.

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