Author Archive

Elephant Care, Action, and Beyond!

by | June 17th, 2016
Protected Contact training with target poles. Photo Gina Kinzley.

Protected Contact training with target poles. Photo Gina Kinzley.

Here at the Oakland Zoo we have a strong belief and value system when it comes to animal welfare. We do everything we can to provide our animals with what they need, including space with the appropriate substrates, social dynamics, as well as enrichment and training for both physical and mental stimuli. Everything we do takes into consideration the health and well-being of the animal as well as the safety of the keeper. Wild animals can be dangerous and in no way should be treated like a pet. We work with them in a protected contact type of management to ensure our safety and theirs. You might be thinking why does the animal need to be safe? Aren’t you the one in danger? The answer is yes. I am in danger should I walk into an enclosure and right up to an animal, but for me to be able to do that involves punishment toward the animal. If you have been to a circus before you have seen all the different animals they work with up-close and personal. This is not because the animals enjoy being in the circus and close to their handlers; this is because the animals are forced and mistreated to behave as asked.

Since I am an elephant keeper, let’s talk about elephants specifically. Working with the largest land mammal on earth is a challenge. People

Donna, mudding in the grassy meadow on a rainy day. Photo Gina Kinzley.

Donna, mudding in the grassy meadow on a rainy day. Photo Gina Kinzley.

think they are gentle giants but more often they are and always have the potential to be extremely dangerous. For decades these intelligent creatures have had to put up with being in the circus where their handlers have abused them into submission, beating them with what is called an “ankus” or “bullhook”. When you see the handlers inside the enclosure working directly with the elephant, this is called free contact. This management relies on negative reinforcement and punishment. The ankus, similar in look to a fireplace poker, was and is specifically designed to cause pain, and for the elephant to move away from the two sharp points of the hook. When an elephant does not comply with the asked behavior the pressure of the sharp points is increased, which often times leads to striking and clubbing with the hook. Twenty five years ago an alternative system was created.

IMG_2425In California, bullhooks are not used at any zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums or at the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary. Instead, this alternate system is called Protected Contact. This style uses positive reinforcement, and trainers are always protected by a barrier whether it be spatial or with fencing. When we ask our elephants to do something they are reinforced with food treats and praise. This keeps us and the elephants safe. When we are training we stand outside the fence line and use target poles, which are a long piece of bamboo or rake handle with a soft tip, to target a part of the body that we need. The keepers or trainers are not dominant over the elephant, and if the elephant chooses not to participate then they have the choice to walk away from the session. Fortunately elephants are extremely food motivated and using their healthy diet they are willing to help the trainers with the care they need. Under Oakland Zoo’s management, the elephants at Tembo Preserve (http://www.tembopreserve.org/index.html) will be trained using the same management style. The Preserve will provide three heated elephant barns of approximately 26,000 square feet each, which will include various protected contact walls, with the first phase including one barn that can service up to 12 elephants, providing shelter from cold weather and facilities for veterinary care and basic husbandry training. Also, throughout the vast and spacious habitat, these training walls will be available to be able to access the elephants at a distance from the main barn when needed.  Most of our training is for husbandry and health purposes, but we do fun stuff as well such as catching a

Donna, playing with a tire for fun. Photo Gina Kinzley.

Donna, playing with a tire for fun. Photo Gina Kinzley.

stick in the trunk or picking up an object when thrown. Fun stuff is okay as long as it is not strenuous on the elephants. A lot of the behaviors you might see in the circus such as legs stands are taxing on the joints and in the long term can cause arthritis. Although rarely observed in the wild to reach a branch or dig up a root, elephants are not meant to do these behaviors repetitively every day. At our facility we can accomplish anything we train, such as foot care, blood draws, ultrasounds, and beyond. I would rather see an elephant out on 6.5 acres grazing and browsing and interacting freely with one another, than standing next to me in fear, wearing some silly outfit, chained and confined in box cars and parking lots and performing tricks for profit. So, please support the Oakland Zoo and let elephants be elephants! Don’t go to the circus, the cruelest show on earth! Support your local non-animal circus’ such as Teatro Zinzanni and Cirque de Soleil.

SB 1062 team. From left to right, Ed Stewart, Gina Kinzley, Jennifer Fearing, Catherine Doyle, Dr. Joel Parrott.

SB 1062 team. From left to right, Ed Stewart, Gina Kinzley, Jennifer Fearing, Catherine Doyle, Dr. Joel Parrott.

SB 1062, a California bill which would ban the use of the bullhook would be the first of it’s kind. Oakland Zoo, along with Performing Animal Welfare Society, and Humane Society of the United States are working to pass this bill. Public opinion regarding the use and treatment of captive elephants is rapidly evolving in the direction of increasing protection for them. The cities of Los Angeles and Oakland have prohibited the use of bullhooks, and San Francisco has banned the use of elephants, among other animals, in performances of any kind. Numerous other jurisdictions across California and the U.S. have similar restrictions in place and more are considering such actions. Today, no county fair in California offers elephant rides (run by operators who use bullhooks), in response to community concerns about animal welfare and public safety. Even Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus has ended their elephant acts and their last show with elephants was in May 2016. California is poised to become the first state

Osh browsing. Photo Gina Kinzley.

Osh browsing. Photo Gina Kinzley.

in the nation to end the abusive treatment of elephants caused by the use of outdated and inhumane bullhooks. SB 1062 would effectively protect elephants, while sending a strong message to the rest of the country that cruelty to elephants must not be tolerated. SB 1062 has already passed the Senate and will be heard on Tuesday, June 14th in the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee. Stay tuned on Oakland Zoo’s Facebook page for updates on the bills progress. Here’s detailed info about the bill: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=sb_1062&sess=CUR&house=B&author=lara_<lara>.

 

Cynthia Moss, founder of Amboseli Trust for Elephants, at the 20th Annual Oakland Zoo Celebrating Elephants.

Cynthia Moss, founder of Amboseli Trust for Elephants, at the 20th Annual Oakland Zoo Celebrating Elephants.

A huge thank you to those of you that attended our Annual Celebrating Elephants Fundraiser. We have raised more than 300,000 dollars over the past twenty years and all of the proceeds go toward world renowned elephant researcher Cynthia Moss’ Amboseli Trust for Elephants, protecting African Elephants through conservation and research. We had the privilege of having Cynthia herself as our guest speaker at the silent auction and lecture. She gave us an update on the thriving Amboseli population of elephants and the research ATE is currently working on. The house was packed with the most people we have ever had attend and we had a record breaking year, raising over $50,000.

 

 

Oakland Zoo’s 20th Annual Celebrating Elephants Event is Coming Soon . . . . Help Celebrate twenty years of Action for Elephants- fundraising for conservation, champions of welfare, and campaigning for protective legislation.

by | May 3rd, 2016
Cynthia Moss, ATE Founder and Director, in the field with Echo.

Cynthia Moss, ATE Founder and Director, in the field with Echo.

May is one of my favorite times of the year. Why? Because we have two full days of celebrating elephants! Not that I don’t celebrate elephants everyday that I work with them, but these two days are unique because we get to meet thousands of visitors and teach them about elephants from how we care for them, where they sleep, what they eat, and the perils they face in the wild. The elephant barn staff spends weeks prepping for this event, cleaning every square inch of the barn and surrounding facility, as well as the 6.5 acres of elephant habitat. We also assist in the zoo wide set-up, helping set up interactive stations allover the zoo, making this a fun and exciting day for our guests. And of course, we are your super stars (besides the elephants!), and will be giving special tours explaining everything elephant. This year you’ll see Jeff, Ashley, Jessica, and Zach and they’ll answer any questions you may have. I am especially excited this year for our evening gala, featuring Cynthia Moss, founder of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. The evening gala team is composed of a small group who are very dedicated and work hard to secure donations and set-up every tiny detail in the Zimmer Auditorium from the tables, to the lights, to the food! We work hard because we know it’s our job as conservationists to help educate our visitors, and to raise funds to directly help our conservation partners. Please, we hope you will join us for the day or the evening, or maybe both, and remember that all proceeds go to protecting the elephants that live in Amboseli National Park.

Here’s what you need to know for the two events: http://www.oaklandzoo.org/Celebrating_Elephants.php

Saturday, May 21st from 6 – 9 p.m., the evening gala will feature special guest speaker, Cynthia Moss; she is a world renowned elephant expert, and director and founder of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE) and Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP).  She will amaze and Inspire with images and stories from over 40 years of studying the

elephants of Amboseli. This gala event is from 6 – 9 p.m. (presentation beginning at 7 p.m.) in the Zimmer Auditorium; tickets are available at the door and at celebratingelephantsgala2016@eventbrite.com.  Ticket prices are

Come wine and dine while bidding on lovely silent auction items! All to help save elephants!

Come wine and dine while bidding on lovely silent auction items! All to help save elephants!

based on a sliding scale from $40 to $100 which, in addition to Cynthia Moss’s presentation, includes heavy hors d’oeuvres, a hosted beer/wine bar, and the silent auction comprised of fabulous items, gift baskets, and gift certificates donated by Bay Area businesses.

 

Saturday, May 28th, all day family fun, elephant activities at the Zoo and are included with Zoo

On Celebrating Elephants Day, you'll get to make fun food filled treat boxes for our elephants and watch them eat it!

On Celebrating Elephants Day, you’ll get to make fun food filled treat boxes for our elephants and watch them eat it!

Admission!  Activities will include hands on experiences such as touching giant pachyderm bones and teeth, stepping on an elephant-sized footprint, participating in a mock research camp where observers watch and record elephant behaviors, and learn to identify Oakland Zoo’s African Elephants, Donna, Lisa, and M’Dunda. Elephant information and interactive stations will abound but be sure to visit the Tembo Preserve station to see drawings of the elephant facilities and learn more about our exciting plans (http://www.tembopreserve.org/). In the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo, visitors are invited to watch

Experience a special behind the scenes and see how the elephants are trained!

Circus Finelli, an animal free circus performance with comedy, acrobatics, juggling, dance and live music with performances at 12 p.m. and 2 pm.  In addition to these events, Celebrating Elephant Day offers the once-a-year chance to go behind the scenes and tour the elephant barn, and see an elephant up close!  Elephant keepers will tour you around the facility to see where the elephants sleep, how they are trained, and explain why they get a pedicure every day! The tours are scheduled every hour beginning at 10:30 a.m., concluding the final tour at 3:30 p.m. and require an additional charge of $10 for adults and $5 for kids under 16; tickets are available at the Flamingo Plaza and the Elephant Exhibit. We also feature an enrichment station where kids can create food filled treat boxes that will be fed out to the

Keepers giving a tour of the barn and explaining training techniques.

Keepers giving a tour of the barn and explaining training techniques.

elephants throughout the day.

All the proceeds from the Celebrating Elephants Events are donated to the Amboseli Trust for Elephants to continue their work and leadership in the research and conservation of African elephants. To date, Oakland Zoo has raised over $300,000 for ATE. To learn more visit   http://www.oaklandzoo.org/Amboseli_Trust.php. Thanks for helping Oakland Zoo take action for elephants!

Global March for Elephants and Rhinos 2015: Join us in San Francisco!

by | September 24th, 2015
Join Oakland Zoo and March For Elephants at the global march on October 3rd in San Francisco!

Join Oakland Zoo and March For Elephants at the global march on October 3rd in San Francisco!

Do you want to fight for the survival of elephants and rhinos? Do you want to say no to extinction? Do you want to march and rally? Please join the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos (GMFER), and be a warrior against the illegal wildlife trafficking trade! On Saturday, October 2nd, 3rd, and 4th the world is coming together to take a stand against the ivory and rhino horn trade in over one-hundred and twenty cities across the globe, including Africa, South America, Asia, and Australia!

Did you know that one elephant in Africa dies every fifteen minutes? And one rhino dies every nine hours? That’s 96 elephants and 2-3 rhinos a

Gina Kinzley, Co-Elephant Manager at Oakland Zoo, handing out "96" pins at World Elephant Day at the zoo.

Gina Kinzley, Co-Elephant Manager at Oakland Zoo, handing out “96” pins at World Elephant Day at the zoo.

day. Considering the estimates for elephants are below 400,000 and rhinos below 18,000 in Africa, they don’t have much time left unless we come together in a global effort and ask for change. To read more about the crisis visit my blog here: http://www.oaklandzoo.org/blog/2014/02/10/96-a-day-96-await/. To watch a videos of the previous SF marches look here: http://marchforelephants.org/videos/.

 

March For Elephants, SF based non-profit, lobbying for SB 716 and AB 96. You may have seen some of these fierce warriors tabling at the zoo!

March For Elephants, SF based non-profit, lobbying for SB 716 and AB 96. You may have seen some of these fierce warriors tabling at the zoo!

I have had the pleasure to be a part of March For Elephants, a San Francisco based grassroots organization, consisting of some of the most passionate and fierce advocates I have met, and who care deeply for the survival of elephants. This group of warriors has been working since May of 2013 to raise awareness of the crisis and organize and advertise the upcoming march in San Francisco. This year they became an official 501c3 non-profit organization run solely by volunteers. The march was originally inspired in 2013 by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a non-profit dedicated to around the clock care of baby orphan elephants, and who have seen the dramatic increase of poaching in Africa, due to the massive increase in orphans they are rescuing. DSWT supported about fifteen other cities who were marching across the globe, and so many other cities were inspired by their work and passion, over forty cities ended up marching in 2013, San Francisco one of them! That momentum has not died and only continues to grow year after year as elephants and rhinos are still in peril. Over one-hundred and twenty cities, and thousands of advocates are working fiercely on behalf of our beloved elephants and rhinos, and we anticipate the San Francisco turnout to be even bigger and better than last year! Last year we had dozens of NGO supporters, including some of Oakland Zoo’s conservation partners, such as Amboseli Trust for Elephants. Post-march, they have a great line-up of speakers including Ed Stewart, co-founder of Performing Animal Welfare Society, and special youth advocates!

Here’s what to do if you’re interested in attending the San Francisco march:

Global March for Elephants and Rhinos San Francisco 2014. Over 1500 in attendance. Photo courtesy of March For Elephants.

Global March for Elephants and Rhinos San Francisco 2014. Over 1500 in attendance. Photo courtesy of March For Elephants.

Please join Oakland Zoo in support of the Global March for Elephants and

Lobbying and testifying at the Capitol for SB 716 and AB 96. Pictured: PAWS, Oakland Zoo, and HSUS staff.

Lobbying and testifying at the Capitol for SB 716 and AB 96. Pictured: PAWS, Oakland Zoo, and HSUS staff.

Rhinos. Say no to elephants turning into trinkets, jewelry, and status symbols. Say no to rhino horn being used as medicine or a hangover cure. Help us tell China to shut down their carving factories! Help us tell Vietnam that rhino horn has no proven medicinal or hangover cures! Also, don’t forget to call Governor Jerry Brown’s office (https://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php) to let him know you support AB 96 a bill that will shut down ivory sales, and SB 716 a bill to prohibit the use of the bullhook,  in California. Governor Brown has until October 11th to either sign or veto. Oakland Zoo has played an active role in both of these bills. Who knows? Maybe we will be celebrating together on march day. See you there!

Oakland Zoo Supports World Elephant Day

by | July 31st, 2015

On Wednesday August 12th, Oakland Zoo will celebrate World Elephant Day.

World Elephant Day was launched on August 12, 2012, by the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation (ERF), a charitable nonprofit organization based in Thailand, and Patricia Sims, president, producer, and director of Canaz West Pictures Inc., a Canadian-based independent film production company. The ERF was founded in 2002 as a Royal initiative of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand. The Elephant Reintroduction Foundation manages three forest sanctuaries in Thailand where, so far, 93 formerly captive elephants have been successfully released back into natural habitat. Check out their website here: http://worldelephantday.org/. WED-LOGOS-CIRCLE-2014-150x150

If you are familiar with Oakland Zoo then you know how passionate we are about elephants and that for the last 19 years in May have been hosting “Celebrating Elephants Day”, to raise funds for Cynthia Moss, founder of Amboseli Trust for Elephants. This year with our day and evening events we were fortunate to outdo ourselves and raise over $40,000 for the elephants and research team that live in Amboseli National Park in Kenya. We also raised several thousand dollars for Big Life Foundation, a new partner, whom particularly focuses on anti-poaching efforts covering two million acres on the Tsavo-Amboseli border. Amboseli and Big Life work together to protect elephants and other wildlife, making our support of the two a unique and cohesive relationship.

96 Elephants a day are being poached in Africa. Join WCS in support of their campaign and take a stand for elephants!

96 Elephants a day are being poached in Africa. Join WCS in support of their campaign and take a stand for elephants!

We would like to honor World Elephant Day as a way to celebrate with the entire world, as well as dozens of other organizations and zoos across the United States and our partners at Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). WCS created the 96 elephants campaign, recognizing the 96 elephants a day that are poached in Africa for their ivory tusks. This campaign has been critical in raising awareness of the crisis that is going on with elephants. Last month, they hosted an ivory crush in New York, crushing over 1 ton of ivory. In November of 2013, in Colorado, the United States crushed 6 tons of ivory. I am asked all the time “what’s the point ?”. The point is that as a nation we are making a statement. We are saying that the illegal wildlife trade is unacceptable and we will not tolerate it. And eyes are watching. As a leader in this world, other nations are watching, particularly those that are involved heavily in the trade. In the past three years there have been several other crushes conducted, including in China and Africa. In other countries that that have stockpiles, it is costly to protect and monitor these piles, and they are always at the risk of leaking back into the illegal market.

In the past year there have been many pivotal moments for elephants, both good and bad.

Like the domino effect . . . one country crushes or burns their ivory stockpiles and several follow suit.

Like the domino effect . . . one country crushes or burns their ivory stockpiles and several follow suit.

November: New York and New Jersey both pass a state ban to prohibit the selling of all ivory (some minor exemptions made). Several other states are working on similar legislation including California. Oakland Zoo is a sponsoring organization on AB 96 which currently has passed through the Assembly Floor, and is in the Senate Appropriations where it is weighing the fiscal impact to the state.

January 2015: The Natural Resources Defense Council releases a study conducted by elephant ivory expert Daniel Stiles, revealing that up to 90 percent of the ivory in Los Angeles markets is illegal and up to 80 percent of ivory in San Francisco markets is illegal

California is the second largest retail market in illegal ivory sales in the U.S.

California is the second largest retail market in illegal ivory sales in the U.S.

February 2015: The State Forestry Administration of China implemented a one year ban on ivory imports. Taken with criticism, as the domestic trade and all the ivory that is already within country borders is not being regulated, but maybe still possibly a step in the right direction. If anything, all the momentum rallied by other countries has got China’s attention.

March 2015: A study by CSU professor and elephant biologist, George Whittemeyer reveals and confirms that the estimates of about 30,000 or more elephants a year are being poached. Between 2010-2012, 100,000 elephants were killed. At this rate, elephants will be near extinction in less than a decade.

June 2015: In a speech, Zhao Shucong, minister in charge of the state forestry administration, announced that China would “strictly control the ivory trade and processing, until eventually halting commercial processing and the sale of ivory and its products”. Later that month, WCS hosts an ivory crush in New Yorks Times Square and crushes over one ton of confiscated ivory.

June 2015: Recent news according to the Great Elephant Census, founded by Dr. Mike CHase, founder of Elephants Without Borders, confirms that Tanzania has lost over sixty percent of their elephant population in just three years. With over 100,000 in 2009, they now are only home to about 40,000 elephants. The Great Elephant Census is the first continent wide aerial survey of elephants which will give us a more accurate

Lisa dusting. One of my favorite behaviors to observe. Photo by author.

Lisa dusting. One of my favorite behaviors to observe. Photo by author.

and complete idea of elephant populations in each country.

Overall as you can see in the above list and timeline action is happening! But will it happen fast enough and soon enough so that elephants continue to be witnessed in the wild? Will we be the generation to allow extinction to occur to one of the most beautiful and intelligent creatures on this earth? I hope not. Please come and join Oakland Zoo on World Elephant Day to learn about elephants and take action by signing petitions and writing to your legislators. Don’t forget to wear your grey and you’ll get a special “96” pin in honor of the 96 elephants that die every day for their tusks. You’ll also have the opportunity to see real tusks up close, color a special elephant drawing, and take an elphie in front of our cool selfie station!

Big Life, Big Victories! Celebrating Elephants Gala 2015

by | May 13th, 2015
Check out our lovely silent auction on May 16th. Help us protect the elephants that live in Amboseli National Park.

Check out our lovely silent auction on May 16th. Help us protect the elephants that live in Amboseli National Park.

There has been so much going on with elephants this year we can hardly keep up! Did you know that last fall Oakland Zoo aided in the banning of the bullhook in our own city? Yep, that’s right by 2016 the traveling shows with elephants will no longer be able to visit Oakland. Los Angeles has already been successful with a bullhook ban as well. Did you know that last month Ringling Brothers announced that by 2018 they will discontinue the use of elephants in their show? Due to the continuing pressure on the circus not being welcomed in cities across the country because of the treatment of their animals, they gave up the fight against advocates trying to create legislation to stop them. Did you know that this week the city of San Francisco banned the use of performing exotic animals for entertainment in the city? There’s a movement happening, a culture shift, and Oakland Zoo is proud to be a part of the change they have been advocating for, for the last thirty years. Still in the works are Senate Bill 716, a California state bill that will prohibit the use of the bullhook (including the use of a similar tool like a pitchfork), on or even around elephants. Also we are actively working on Assembly Bill 96, a California state bill that will end the legal sales of ivory in California. Yes, ivory is still legal to sell in the state. Just walk down the streets in San Francisco Chinatown and you’ll see it in shop windows. See my previous blog for more info on the issue.

Oakland Zoo is part of both coalitions who are working toward SB 716 and AB 96, collaborating with

Fund-a-need: A fantastic contribution you can make at our silent auction is to give funds toward equipment and supplies for the team that protects the elephants in Amboseli.

Fund-a-need: A fantastic contribution you can make at our silent auction is to give funds toward equipment and supplies for the team that protects the elephants in Amboseli.

some fantastic organizations who all seek the same outcome: the safety and survival of elephants. While we have been advocating for the past thirty years for the management and training style called Protected Contact Positive Reinforcement (PCP+), we also take responsibility that our mission is conservation and education. This year we have dedicated our 19th annual Celebrating Elephants events to fight for the passage of AB 96. We very much welcome Big Life Foundation as a new partner and a 2014 Quarters for Conservation vote. Did you know that when you enter the zoo, twenty five cents of your admission goes directly toward conservation, and you get a token to vote on one of three projects it will go toward? That’s pretty cool!

Amy Baird, Associate Director of Big Life Foundation will be our guest speaker for our 19th annual Celebrating Elephants Gala, on May 16th.

Amy Baird, Associate Director of Big Life Foundation will be our guest speaker for our 19th annual Celebrating Elephants Gala, on May 16th.

Big Life, founded by wildlife photographer Nick Brandt, and conservationist Richard Bonham, focuses on anti-poaching efforts and protects two million acres of land in the Tsavo-Amboseli ecosystem. Big Life is the only organization in East Africa that has coordinated anti-poaching rangers operating on both sides of the Kenya-Tanzania border. To date they have arrested 1790 poachers, and seized 3,012 poaching tools and weapons, while employing 315 rangers with 31 outposts and 15 vehicles.  They recognize that sustainable conservation can only be reached through a community based collaborative approach. Their vision is to establish a successful holistic conservation model in Amboseli-Tsavo that can be replicated across the African continent. They not only protect the elephants that live on this land, but all wildlife. We are lucky enough to have Amy Baird, Associate Director of Big Life to be our guest speaker at the Celebrating Elephants Gala on May 16th.

Please join us for a special Big Life presentation, followed by a reception with spirits and appetizers, and

peruse the lovely silent auction. Doors open at 6:00 pm. Tickets are available at the door or in advance

A forty plus years research study and conservation organization, on the behavior and ecology of African Elephants.

A forty plus years research study and conservation organization, on the behavior and ecology of African Elephants.

at: celebratingelephants2015.brownpapertickets.com. You may also make donations through this site if you can’t make it to the auction. And don’t forget to grab the entire family and join us for the day event on May 23rd, where you will experience the once-a-year opportunity to tour the elephant barn and talk to the staff about how the elephants are taken care of. For more detailed information check it out here:http://www.oaklandzoo.org/Celebrating_Elephants.php.  All proceeds of the two events go to the Amboseli Trust for Elephants in Kenya, check out their website here: https://www.elephanttrust.org/.

Legal ivory sales in California?? Not on our watch!!

by | February 27th, 2015
California is the second largest retail market in illegal ivory sales in the U.S.

California is the second largest retail market in illegal ivory sales in the U.S.

The laws and legality regarding the ivory trade in the United States consist of a long web of complicated and not quite so clear issues. Let me break it down for you so that you can understand the issue on a national and state level.

What are the federal regulations regarding the ivory trade?

African Elephant number estimates in 1979 were 1.3 million. About ten years later, the population was down to 650,000. Due to a global ban in the ivory trade in 1989 this helped curb the trade significantly. The only imports allowed into the United States were either antiques (over 100 years old), or trophy tusks (yes, elephants are legally trophy hunted). The only other imports or trade allowed were one-off sales of the existing stockpiles, regulated by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, (CITES). Two one-off sales were granted to China and Japan in 1999 and 2008, and it is believed that this is part of why the value of ivory and the illegal killing of elephants has once again sky-rocketed. Elephant numbers are now currently down to 450,000.

Prior to President Obama’s Executive Order in February of 2014, antique ivory was still legally imported into the United States. The selling of antique ivory or ivory imported prior to 1989 (when the global ban happened) within the states and across state borders was legal. Under the current Executive Order or federal permissions, antique ivory is no longer allowed to be imported, but still may be exported. The reason why this is important is because since elephants are still being killed for their tusks, there is constantly a flow of new ivory. The antique and pre-ban ivory, or the legal trade, is masking the illegal ivory trade. Unless you are an expert, it is almost impossible to distinguish the difference between the two. In fact, sellers that are selling illegal ivory are using techniques to stain the ivory to make it look antique! The EO also states that we cannot trade from state to state (interstate). Unfortunately importing trophy hunted tusks is still legal, but the EO limits this to two trophies per year. Obama also created a Wildlife Task Force that will be responsible to all wildlife trade as well as enforcement, which is key. The onus is also on the owner or seller, meaning they must have the legal permits stating when the piece was imported legally (if they have it). What the EO does not cover is intrastate trade, or what goes on within each state. This means that antique ivory and pre-ban ivory are still legal to sell within states, creating that shadow to cover the illegal market. The law is even worse in California.

Did you know that it is currently legal to sell ivory in California?

Oshy, 20 years old, shows off his large ivory tusks. Ivory can be valued up to $1800 per pound.

Oshy, 20 years old, shows off his large ivory tusks. Ivory can be valued up to $1800 per pound.

In 1976 California established one of the strongest laws banning the importation for commercial purposes, possession with intent to sell, or sale of any elephant part. In 1977 uncodified language of the annotated portion of the law, penal code 653o, created a large loophole, basically saying that any ivory imported into the state before 1977 is legal. Further, Department of Fish and Game does not take responsibility for enforcing the current law because it is penal code, those of which are typically enforced by police officers, sheriff deputies and other peace officers throughout the state. In addition, neither the California Fish and Game Code, nor the state wildlife regulations enforced by the Department of Fish and Wildlife reference elephants or elephant products.

How are we going to stop this?

If you haven’t already seen it in the news, according to a 2008 investigation by Daniel Stiles, it was found that the United States was the number two importer of illegal ivory. The top states? New York, California, and Hawaii. The top cities in California? Los Angeles and San Francisco. The most current investigation conducted in the spring of 2014 found that up to 80% of the ivory being sold in 30 markets in San Francisco was likely illegal. Also, since the 2008 report, illegal ivory products have doubled in CA, showing a parallel trend to the slaughter happening in Africa. In August of 2014 both New York and New Jersey banned the selling and purchasing of ivory within their states. California, amongst other states such as Hawaii, Florida and several others, intend to do the same.

On January 7th 2015, Assembly Bill 96 (#AB96) was introduced in California. Why 96? One elephant in Africa is killed every 15 minutes, 96 per day, and roughly 35,000 elephants per year. If this rate continues, entire populations of elephants, including the African Forest Elephant will be gone within 15 years. This state ban will make it illegal to sell and purchase ivory within the state regardless of the year or if it is antique. However, there are some minor exemptions. Bona-fide antiques (over 100 years old) can be sold but only if under 5% of volume of the piece is ivory. Most bona-fide antiques, are less than 5% ivory. Most current ivory products are jewelry, trinkets, and statues, the majority of these pieces are 100% ivory. Also musical instruments manufactured before 1975 and less than 20% ivory will be exempt as well. Currently, most piano keys are made out of plastic. The rationale behind these exemptions is that these items are not the major contributors to the ivory trade. The figurines and jewelry that are comprised of almost all ivory is the real issue.

What will AB 96 do?

AB 96 will close the existing loophole in the CA law by apealing the penal code. Further, it will add enforcement responsibility to the Fish and

We will not let elephants disappear from this earth!

We will not let elephants disappear from this earth!

Game Code, making California Fish and Wildlife authorities accountable for the enforcement. Penalties, including jail time and hefty fines will be given to those found selling or purchasing illegal ivory. Also, AB 96 includes all types of ivory (narwhal, whale, hippo, walrus, mammoth), and rhinoceros horn. Rhino horn, which is made up of keratin or skin just like ours, is desired specifically in Vietnam where it is believed to have medicinal purposes (that has never been proven). Rhino horn has been found in the United States as well. There are only 28,000 rhinos left in the world!  California has the opportunity here to set an example to the rest of the nation and the world making it clear that we do not support trade in ivory or rhino horn.

What is Oakland Zoo doing?

Time to celebrate at the Capitol! AB 96 passes the Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee on March 10th. Oakland Zoo staff and coalition partners attended.

Time to celebrate at the Capitol! AB 96 passes the Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee on March 10th. Oakland Zoo staff and coalition partners attended.

A year ago, Oakland Zoo joined forces with the Wildlife Conservation Society, who founded the 96 elephants campaign, to raise awareness to the plight of elephants and the ivory trade. Joining the coalition for AB 96, which includes the key players, Humane Society of the United States, National Resources Defense Council, Wildlife Conservation Society, California Associations of Zoos and Aquariums, amongst several other supporting NGO’s, including our friends at the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), and dozens of other conservation partners including our own here at the zoo.

As part of the coalition, we are responsible for the support of AB 96, which includes heightening the awareness surrounding the issue through social media, blogs, and zoo tabling, asking our visitors to take action through petitions and sending letters to their district legislators, lobbying our Bay Area district offices, supporting other CAZA member institutions and working together to be the strongest force we can to make change. If you’d like to help, here is a current action you can take.

**Send a letter to your district legislators thanking them for either supporting the bill or asking them to support it. Use this pre-written template: www.96elephants.org/california . It takes only 30 seconds!**

M'Dundamella, 46 years, has beautiful long tusks. Help Oakland Zoo in their conservation efforts to save wild elephants!

M’Dundamella, 46 years, has beautiful long tusks. Help Oakland Zoo in their conservation efforts to save wild elephants!

On Tuesday, March 10th AB 96 successfully passed out of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee and is on to the Appropriations Committee! ACTION: If you are a constituent in the districts of the members of the Appropriations Committee, please write to them asking them to support the bill! To find your district rep, go here: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/. Visit here to see who is on the Appropriations Committee: http://apro.assembly.ca.gov/membersstaff. To stay in touch with the bill status, check here: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/15-16/bill/asm/ab_0051-0100/ab_96_bill_20150126_status.html. To read the bill literature read here: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/15-16/bill/asm/ab_0051-0100/ab_96_bill_20150107_introduced.pdf.

Stay tuned for monthly blog updates on the bill and it’s status and don’t forget to #ab96! Join us for Feasts for the Beasts and learn more about our African Elephants here at Oakland Zoo. Main Entrance doors open early at 9:00am for the first 250 guests donating produce. A golden ticket to spread produce in the elephant exhibit will be administered. Once all food is in place, guests will exit the exhibit to watch the elephants enjoy their treats. Stick around after the elephant feeding and explore the Zoo (http://www.oaklandzoo.org/Calendar_Item.php?i=1141).