Marula-Puku Research Camp
In case you haven't heard -- the international ban on the trade in ivory has been continued for two more years! In our last letter we appealed to you to contact President Bush requesting that the USA continue its support of the moratorium. Many of you sent letters or made phone calls to the White House; thank you very much for your efforts.
As it turned out, the race to influence the US delegation in Japan to vote in favor of the ban was a cliff hanger. The US Fish and Wildlife Service was inclined to vote against the ban. They claimed that they wanted to give the few nations like Zimbabwe and South Africa, who have strong conservation policies, a chance to profit from the ivory trade. We and many other conservation organizations pointed out to them that South Africa is the largest clearing house for illegal ivory on the continent, and that the army of Zimbabwe is involved in illegal trafficking of ivory. And, in any case, if the ban had been reversed, a legal and illegal ivory trade would have opened again, and poaching would have increased dramatically.
We did everything we could think of to persuade the US delegation to support the ban -- letters to Congress and the President. Mary Dykes, our Assistant Director, helped to organize three debates on CNN to reach the general public about the issue.
The international vote was to take place at a meeting held in Japan on March 2. By the end of February the situation looked very bleak; the US delegation was determined to vote against the ban.
Then one morning Helen Cooper, the Executive Director of the Owens Foundation (who also happens to be Delia's sister) contacted us with this message -- "Guess who's coming to dinner!" Her husband, Fred Cooper, is President Bush's campaign manager in Georgia and the President and Mrs. Bush were coming to the Cooper's home for a private dinner. Helen promised us that, one way or another, she would bring up the plight of the elephants and ask President Bush to influence the vote in Japan.
Helen and Fred wanted the evening to be a relaxing one for the President and Mrs. Bush, so Helen wasn't sure how to raise such a serious subject tactfully. She solved the problem by inviting Mrs. Bush into her office which is filled with decorative elephants of every description. This lead to both Helen and Fred appealing to the President to contact Japan, which he promised to consider. The next week, Fred was informed that the President had done so and the US delegation voted in favor of the ban.
Also, we are pleased to tell you that Zambia, which previously opposed the ban, has joined it and is prohibiting trade in any elephant parts. So far in 1992 we have seen only two poached elephants in North Luangwa. The ban is definitely working and we have to make sure that it is continued at the next meeting in 1994.
The North Luangwa Conservation Project is working very well. The Community Service Program, which offers the villagers opportunities to take up other occupations rather than poaching, is growing. Our most recent success has been the introduction of fish farms in the village of Katibunga. Not only do they offer employment to the farmer, they also supply protein to the village and the people do not have to poach. After successfully starting three farms, we returned to Katibunga to find they had dug thirty new ponds!
As you may be aware, there is a drought in Zambia. The elephants usually spend the dry season in the Muchinga Mountains where they browse the lush trees and drink from small streams. However, these streams are nearly dry, so we predict that the elephants will have to migrate back across the park to the Luangwa River. We can only hope that there will be enough grass on the river plains to get them through the dry season.
Besides Survivor, several elephants come into camp often to eat the marula fruits. Cheers, a tuskless male, is feeding just beyond the cottage as I write this. Yesterday he walked into the radio antenna and snapped it in two. To him it was like walking through a spider web and I don't think he even noticed. But, who cares - he is welcome anytime.
We continue to do all that we can to save the African elephants. Thank you for all that you do to help us.
Cheers from the bush,