AUDIO: US uplisting of African elephants, a timeline for action

IFAW is working to uplist African elephants to Endangered status under the US Endangered Species Act.I recently told you about our bid to “uplist” African elephants to Endangered status under the US Endangered Species Act, and since then I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how the process will play out.

After all, there are a few overlapping efforts in play to protect this besieged species, but with slightly different timelines and tactics. Here’s what you need to know about each of them – how and when you’ll have the opportunity to weigh in:

  • Uplisting: The US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has 90 days (in this case, by May 12th) to decide whether or not we presented substantial evidence for upgrading African elephants’ classification to Endangered. If they agree that we have, FWS will then conduct a 12-month status review to comb through the scientific literature and consider all of the data. When that review is finished, FWS has three options for how to proceed, but the one we want is called a “Warranted” finding: this means that they agrees with our data and that they think an Endangered uplisting is the best way to proceed. If FWS makes a “Warranted” finding, we’ll start banging the gongs and letting everyone know about it, because that means we have 60 days to turn out as many supporters as possible (you know, those emails we send you with a headline like “Take Action to Save Endangered Elephants!”…those go to the Fish & Wildlife Service, which has to take them all into account before making a final decision).
  • Federal regulations: The FWS is close to unveiling their proposal to limit trophy imports and ivory sales in the US (they took two steps in 2014, and this is the third and final step). We anticipate the public comment period for this new regulation will begin this Spring – perhaps as early as late March, but more likely in April or May. Keep an eye out for an update from IFAW, as we’ll be making this a top priority for action.
  • State Bills: New York and New Jersey led the way by passing better ivory laws last year, and numerous others – California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland, Iowa, Washington, and Oklahoma, with more to come – have introduced legislation to protect elephants by tightening their own loopholes on the ivory trade. If you live in one of these states, you can help by calling or emailing your local representative and urging them to throw their support behind these bills.
  • Defense: It would be amazing if we could knock these dominoes down 1,2,3, but, of course, there’s always opposition to wildlife protection. Politicians like Representative Don Young have already declared their intentions to try to block the progress we’ve made on elephants, and more attacks are expected in the form of “riders” (controversial add-ons) to various bills in Congress this year.

    We may ask for your help to fight back, but it’s hard to predict when these bad riders will surface, so it wouldn’t hurt to call your US Representatives and Senators now and ask them to support elephants, not ivory traffickers.

The key message for all of these efforts is pretty simple: The old laws didn’t work, and the new ones have a chance to make a huge difference. We need to tighten the loopholes to protect wildlife.

Beyond that top-line take away, my colleague Masha Kalinina (of Humane Society International) and I were just interviewed by Jill Buck of Go Green Radio, who gave us the rare and welcome chance to move past sound bites and offer an in-depth view of our organizations’ work to protect African elephants.

You can listen using the Sound Cloud player above.

We discussed the Endangered Species Act uplisting petition, but our conversation also touched on ivory markets around the world, the newly-released action plan for the White House’s National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking, and how trophy hunting is hurting efforts to conserve the species.

If you’re interested in learning more about any of these issues, it’s well worth a listen.


For more information about IFAW efforts to protect elephants, visit our campaign page.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
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Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
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Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
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Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
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