Bush policy & bushmeat

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2003:

policy changes proposed in both the U.S. and
Kenya–and backed by much of the same
money–threaten to replace the principle of
protecting rare species with the notion that even
endangered wildlife should “pay for itself” by
being hunted or captured alive for sale.
The proposed amendments represent such an
extreme interpretation of the “sustainable use”
philosophy advanced since 1936 by the National
Wildlife Federation and since 1961 by the World
Wildlife Fund that even WWF endangered species
program director Susan Lieberman was quick to
denounced the U.S. versions.
“Money doesn’t always mean conservation,”
Lieberman told Washington Post staff writer
Shankar Vedantam. “To me, the theme is allowing
industry to write the rules.”

“The George W. Bush administration is
proposing far-reaching changes to conservation
policies that would allow hunters, circuses and
the pet industry to kill, capture and import
animals on the brink of extinction in other
countries,” Vedantam warned on October 11,
2003–less than a week before the public comment
period was to expire on the first of a series of
pending amendments to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service regulations for enforcing the Endangered
Species Act.
Together, the amendments would “open the
door for American trophy hunters to kill the
endangered straight-horned markhor in Pakistan,
license the pet industry to import the blue
fronted Amazon parrot from Argentina, permit the
capture of endangered Asian elephants for U.S.
circuses and zoos, and partially resume the
trade in African ivory,” Vedantam revealed.
“This will mean it will be possible to
shoot any endangered animal and just say the
money goes to conservation,” wild chimpanzee
researcher Jane Goodall told the Wildlife
Conservation Expo in Los Altos Hills,
California. “It stinks, quite honestly.”
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service assistant
director for international affairs Kenneth
Stansell “said there has been a growing
realization that the ESA provides poor countries
no incentive to protect species,” Vedantam
wrote. “Giving Americans access to endangered
animals, officials said, would feed the U.S.
demand for live animals, skins, parts and
trophies, and generate profit that would allow
poor nations to pay for conservation.”
David P. Smith, Interior Department deputy
assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and
Parks, insisted to Vedantam that, “This is
absolutely consistent with the Endangered Species
Chiefly representing large landowners,
the Kenya Wildlife Working Group used comparable
language in an April 2003 set of policy
recommendations to the Kenya Wildlife Service.
“Managing land to produce game
birdsŠshould be encouraged,” the KWWG said.
“Game cropping to produce meat and other products
is in principle no different from any other form
of animal productionŠit should be encouraged.
“A prime objective of KWS is managing and
conserving wildlife to yield optimum returns,”
the KWWG asserted. “Worldwide, recreational
hunting yields high economic returns. It did so
in Kenya for both government and the private
sector between 1900 and 1970ŠThe circumstances
existing between 1970 and 1977 that justified
banning all hunting no longer exist. Given these
facts, recreational hunting can be reintroduced
to Kenya.
“Many trophies come into KWS hands
annually and the hides and skins of animals
cropped by landowners become available. Not
allowing them to be processed and sold wastes
millions of shillings. To optimize returns,
trade in trophies should be permitted. Trade in
live animals can be profitable and can help
conserve biodiversityŠTrade in live animals
should be encouraged,” the KWWG added.
The likeness of outlook was no mere coincidence.
A leading proponent of the Bush
administration proposals is John R. Monson,
president-elect of Safari Club International and
former chair of the New Hampshire Fish and Game
“In 1999,” Vedantam noted, “Monson
applied for a permit to shoot and import a
straight-horned markhor. He was turned down.
“Safari Club International gave $274,000 to
candidates during the 2000 election cycle, 86
percent of it to Republicans. It also spent
$5,445 printing bumper stickers for the Bush
presidential campaign. Monson has made a variety
of contributions himself, including $1,000 to the
Bush for President campaign.
The most influential voice within the
KWWG is another bigtime trophy hunter, Ian
Parker, described by former KWS director Richard
Leakey in his book Wildlife Wars as a former
professional elephant hunter and”outspoken
opponent of efforts to give the elephants a total
protection,” arguing that “commercial use should
be a fundamental part of any policy on elephant
The U.S. voted at the November 2002
Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species triennial meeting to amend the 1989
global ban on ivory trafficking to allow
Botswana, Namibia and South Africa to sell
stockpiled ivory–in accord with the
recommendations of Safari Club Inter-national and
Ian Parker, but in opposition to the views of
most conservation organizations.


Youth for Conservation cofounder Josphat
Ngonyo disputes almost every KWWG claim.
“Uncontrolled exploitation of wildlife forced the
government to ban hunting in 1977,” Ngonyo
explains. “There was no more formal consumptive
use of wildlife in Kenya until in 1990 the KWS
gave in to pressure from a few wealthy
land-owners and allowed a five-year game cropping
experiment in Nakuru, Laikipia, Machakos,
Samburu, Kajiado, and Lamu. This project has
continued for 13 years and was only reviewed in
“KWS was to monitor and evaluate the
project. But KWS relied on the croppers and
landowners for information. Driven by economic
interest, landowners have at times given
exaggerated figures [of wildlife abundance] to be
allowed to continue to crop. Some croppers
resort to poach ing to meet market demand after
exhausting their quotas,” Ngonyo charged.
“The rationale for cropping was to give
the landowners an economic interest in conserving
the wildlife on their land, thereby reducing
human/wildlife conflict. This has not happened.
Large landowners crop and benefit from the
wildlife while their neighbors may be arrested if
they hunt even a single dik-dik for domestic use.
We are thus witnessing heightened animosity
between the landowners and the communities. This
has fueled poaching in some areas. In fact,
cropping is compromising the gains made in
anti-poaching campaigns. YfC in two recent
three-day desnaring operations harvested 675
snares on just one ranch in Machakos.
“The pilot cropping project led to the
emergence of the powerful cartels that are now
lobbying for lifting the sport hunting ban in
Kenya,” Ngonyo observes. “The ideals of
conservation appear to be long abandoned. The
goal is to maximize gains from wildlife.”
Michael Wamithi, KWS chief from November
2002 to May 2003, suspended the cropping
permits. Wamithi soon afterward lost his job,
and returned to work with his previous employer,
the International Fund for Animal Welfare, but
Ngonyo and fellow YfC officier Steve Itela,
among others, have rallied sufficient opposition
to cropping to forestall a resumption–at least
so far.
“To YfC, the difference between bushmeat
and game meat is a matter of semantics,” Ngonyo
says. “Meat is all from the same source, the
death of an animal, and if anything, the
licensed killer is doing more harm than the
small-scale hunter or snarer because of the
technological sophistication of the tools he
But Zoological Society of London
conservation programs director Glyn Davies and
researcher Guy Cowlishaw said at Salford
University in Manchester on September 7 that
conservationists should work to develop a
sustainable bushmeat trade.
“A great many people depend on bushmeat
for food and cash,” said Davies. “You can’t
just waltz in and say stop.”
Agreed Cowlishaw, “It would be a crisis
if the bushmeat resource disappeared. We have a
duty to make sure it remains for local people and
is sustainable for the future of the species
The Davies/Cowlishaw extension of the
“sustainable use” concept to bushmeat could
indirectly reflect the growing influence of
funding from pro-hunting organizations on the zoo
community. Ramona Bass, for example, wife of
then-Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission chair
Lee Bass, raised $40 million for the Texas Wild
exhibit opened in June 2001 at the Fort Worth
Zoo. The exhibit glorifies sport hunting.
The Fort Worth Zoo was also the only
animal-related charity named as recipient of a
gift from George W. Bush in his presidential
campaign disclosure statements.
Fort Worth Zoo director of animal
collections Robert Wiese in 2000 projected that
captive elephants could be extinct in North
America by 2049 without an influx of young
breeding stock. Elephants have not been imported
into the U.S. since 1989, but under the Bush
administration the Fish & Wildlife Service has
agreed to allow the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa,
Florida, and the San Diego Wild Animal Park in
California to import four elephants and seven
elephants, respectively, from Swaziland.
The Save The Elephants Coalition
challenged the import permits, but lost in U.S.
District Court on August 8 and lost in the U.S.
Court of Appeals on August 15.


The Bush administration via the Fish &
Wildlife Service has also proposed creating a
first-ever exemption to the 11-year-old Wild Bird
Conservation Act to allow imports of blue-fronted
Amazon parrots from Argentina.
“The proposal cites estimates by
Argentine parrot biologist Enrique Bucher of how
many birds could be safely captured,” Vedan-tam
wrote. “But Bucher said his research actually
showed that the proposal was poorly conceived.”
“It’s an extraordinarily bad idea,”
World Parrot Trust director Jamie Gilardi told
Vedantam, supported by the signatures of 88
parrot experts. “The quotas are based on poor or
inadequate science. Sustain-ability is not
addressed at all.”
ANIMAL PEOPLE in January 1999 journeyed
up the Rio Tambopata in southern Peru to study
parrot habitat in one of the most remote parts of
the Amazon basin. We saw devastation wrought by
conservation policies founded on “sustainable
use,” which were paradoxically defended by many
of the biologists who were watching species
“The biologists acknowledged that human
predation had significantly depleted parrots,
monkeys, giant otters, and other animals
captured or hunted for either cash or meat,” we
wrote. “In almost in the same breath, however,
the biologists at once denounced capturing
wildlife for live resale and vigorously defended
meat-hunting by indigenous people–even of some
of the rarest mammals.
“First, they argued, the indigenous
hunter/gatherers have protected and preserved
rainforest biodiversity for centuries, and will
continue to do so if they are allowed to go on
practicing their traditional way of life. This
was said while acknowledging that most of the
indigenous people of the Amazon region are
thoroughly intermingled with more recent
immigrants, and that most of the people still
classified as ‘indigenous’ have adopted modern
ways and weapons to whatever extent they are able.
“Second, the biologists asserted, the
hunter/gatherers have no choice but to hunt, as
they have no other source of protein (though they
export protein-rich Brazil nuts) and as the thin
rainforest topsoil will not sustain farming.”
Our March 1999 rebuttal of the
biologists’ belief that subsistence hunting and
conservation are compatible was not well-received
by sustainable use proponents.
But our observations were seconded by
Lucy Molleson in the August 2003 edition of the
International Primate Protection League magazine
IPPL News.
“In recent years, immigrants seeking
work have significantly increased the demand for
food,” wrote Molleson, “Today there is more
subsistence hunting in the tropics of Central and
South America than in any other equatorial
region. Conservative estimates suggest that 15
million animals are killed each year in the
Brazilian Amazon. A study in the Madre De Dios
region of Peru found that along the Las Piedras
river,” which meets the Tambopata at Puerto
Maldonado, “more than 44 tons of bushmeat were
consumed in logging camps last year alone,
including 690 endangered white-bellied spider
monkeys. Woolly monkeys may have been lost
“Combined with habitat loss and
fragmentation of the forest,” Molleson
concluded, “even light to moderate hunting can
quickly reduce numbers to the point where they
cannot recover.”
ANIMAL PEOPLE was also derided by
mainstream conservationists for pointing out that
the Amazon rainforest is not primeval old growth,
as is widely supposed, but rather regrowth,
covering the remains from cycles of use and
exploitation that began long before the arrival
of chainsaws.
University of Florida researcher Michael
Heckenberger in the September 19, 2003 edition
of Science presented archaeological evidence that
the Amazon region was heavily populated and
cultivated in pre-Columbian times. Heckenberger
and assistants have unearthed the remains of 19
technologically advanced agrarian communities in
the upper Xingu region of Brazil.
“The Upper Xingu is the largest tract of
Amazonian forest still under indigenous
management,” noted MSNBC science reporter
Kathleen Wren. “This brings up the question of
how to conserve the remaining Amazon. Should the
goal be to preserve a pristine wilderness, or a
working landscape that supports indigenous
Heckenberger pointed out that
“indigenous” and “primitive” are not necessarily
the same thing.
“As we dig into the region,” he said,
“we realize that 500 years ago it was very
different. These people were involved in the
same kinds of cultural innovation as elsewhere in
the world. We’re not talking about the Incan or
Roman empires, but in terms of the rest of
Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and
elsewhere, Amazonians were no less capable of
human cultural innovation than anyone else.”
This suggests that their descendants
should be no less capable of developing a way of
life today that does not depend upon killing

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