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U.S. House Unanimously Approves Rep. Don Young's Conservation Bill to Assist African Elephants, Rhinos & Tigers

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Location: Washington, DC

U.S. HOUSE UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES REP. DON YOUNG'S CONSERVATION BILL TO ASSIST AFRICAN ELEPHANTS, RHINOS & TIGERS

The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously approved legislation designed to expand U.S. efforts to help conserve the dwindling populations of African elephants, rhinoceros and tigers.

The legislation - "The Multinational Species Conservation Fund Reauthorization Act" - (H.R. 50), which was approved today by unanimous consent, was introduced by U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the Ranking Member on the Natural Resources Committee.

H.R. 50 will extend the authorization of appropriations for the African Elephant Conservation Act of 1988 and the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994.

"These Acts have been two of the most effective conservation laws ever approved by the U.S. Congress," Young said.

"This small investment of U.S. tax dollars has made a tremendous difference in the fight to save these species from extinction. However, the battle has not been won and it is essential that we reauthorize these two highly effective conservation funds. In the words of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ‘continued funding is critical in order to help support efforts for these critically endangered species'.

"It will be a monumental tragedy if we allow these species to disappear forever."

Young's legislation will extend the authorization of appropriations for both bills for an additional five years until September 30, 2012.

Conserving African Elephants

"First enacted nearly two decades ago, the African Elephant Conservation Act was designed to assist range countries who were fighting a losing battle against heavily armed poachers who were systematically annihilating the flagship species of the African continent," Young said.

"By the mid-1980's, the population of African elephants had fallen from 1.3 million to less than 500,000 animals. In fact, only in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe were elephant populations stable.

"In response to this growing wildlife crisis and the real likelihood that this species could face extinction throughout most of its historic range, Congress passed the African Elephant Conservation Act. This landmark law was used to ban the importation of carved ivory into the United States and it established the African Elephant Conservation Fund. Under the terms of the Act, the Secretary of the Interior was directed to review conservation projects submitted by government entities and non governmental organizations and to approve those that significantly advanced the conservation needs of this important species.

"Since its inception, the Secretary has approved 280 conservation grants in 23 African range countries. These grants have received nearly $17 million in U.S. dollars and nearly $72 million in private matching funds. This favorable ratio of more than 4 to 1 in private donations has been truly remarkable.

Numerous New Programs Are Helping Elephants But Poaching Continues

"The types of conservation projects approved include the training of wildlife personnel; determining the population status, characteristics and habitat needs of elephants in various range countries; providing uniforms, tents and security equipment to wildlife rangers; monitoring the impact of elephants on agriculture; research the seasonal migration patterns of elephants; train local residents in the collection of baseline elephant data and provide local communities with viable economic alternatives to poaching elephants and other species," Young said.

"While one of these projects would not by itself save the African elephant, together, they have stopped the precipitous slide towards extinction. Sadly, there is no question that elephants are still being poached and that illegal obtained ivory remains a serious international problem. This is why this law must be extended. This small investment of taxpayer dollars is making a significant positive difference is saving this species."

Rhinos & Tigers Are Among Most Endangered Species on Earth

"My legislation will also extend the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act," Young said. "This act was designed to assist these two highly imperiled species. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has noted that ‘rhinos and tigers remain among the most charismatic and some of the most endangered species on earth'.

"At the time of its initial enactment in 1994, the number of rhinoceros living in the wild had fallen from 65,000 in 1970 to fewer than 16,000 animals. The five subspecies of tigers were facing an ever more perilous future. At the turn of the 20th century, there were more than 100,000 tigers living in the wild. By 1994, there were fewer than 6,000 tigers, which represented a decline of roughly 95 percent.

"By comparison, there are more than 25,000 tigers currently living in captivity.

"While there are many factors causing the decline of these species, there is no question that poaching and loss of habitat are the two primary reasons rhinos and tigers are facing extinction. A 1994 Newsweek cover shouted that the tiger was "doomed" unless the international community took some concrete steps to save them.

U.S. Funding Is the Only Dedicated Source of Funding To Save Rhinos & Tigers

"The Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act was one of those positive steps. It was a lifeline to two species on the brink of disappearing and this fund remains the only dedicated annual source of money for rhinos and tigers in the world.

"In the last 12 years, the Fish and Wildlife Service has received 744 conservation grant proposals to assist rhinos and tigers. The service has approved 321 projects in range countries throughout Africa and Asia. These proposals have received $7.8 million in federal funds with nearly $20 million in private matching funds.

"This money has been used to finance a host of projects including the training of wildlife mangers; facilitating the reintroduction of white rhinos; a database on tiger poaching; a tiger community education program in Indonesia; monitoring tigers, prey and their habitat in India's tiger reserves; providing emergency veterinary services to treat injured black rhinos in Zimbabwe and investigating the poaching and trade of wild tiger parts in India. The sponsors of these projects include the International Rhino Foundation, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund.

"According to the World Wildlife Fund ‘there is no question that these programs have been instrumental in the conservation progress that we have seen in the last decade'. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has indicated that ‘it has been expressed by field experts that both the Javan and Sumatran rhinos might now be extinct were it not for the multinational species conservation funds".


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