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U.S. Rep. Don Young, Ranking Member, House Resources Committee

July 23, 2007

Bill To Extend U.S. Assistance for Dwindling Asian Elephant Population Approved By U.S. House

“The road to extinction is a one-way street and we must work to ensure that the Asian elephant does not make that journey.” – U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ)

            Washington, D.C. – Legislation that would allow for the continued U.S. assistance in conservation programs for the dwindling Asian Elephant population was approved today by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The legislation – “The Asian Elephant Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2007” (H.R. 465) – was introduced by U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ), and was approved today by unanimous consent.

“During our public hearing on H. R. 465, the Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers this Fund, testified that ‘the Asian Elephant Conservation Act has greatly enhanced the conservation status of the Asian elephant’,” Saxton said.

“There are currently only about 40,000 wild Asian elephants living in 13 south and southeastern Asia.  As a result, this species is listed on our Endangered Species Act, on Appendix I of CITES and on the World Conservation Union’s Red List.

“In response to the ongoing slaughter of this keystone species, Congress adopted the Asian Elephant Conservation Act which I was pleased to sponsor in 1997.  In the decade since its enactment, the Secretary of the Interior has carefully reviewed over 300 conservation projects designed to save Asian elephants for future generations.  The Secretary has approved 183 of these grants proposals which have received $9 million in federal funds and $11.3 million in private matching funds.

“As every witness testified, there is an overwhelming need to extend this important conservation program and there is no question that these conservation funds have had a profound impact on protecting this irreplaceable species.  While everyone enjoys seeing elephants at the National Zoo, it is far more important that they continue to exist in the wild in Burma, India and Thailand.

“The road to extinction is a one-way street and we must work to ensure that the Asian elephant does not make that journey.  It is an appropriate and sound investment of U. S. tax dollars,” Saxton said.

Background Information

In Asia, the relationship between man and elephant dates back almost 5,000 years when elephants were first captured and trained for use in religious ceremonies, war and as work animals. Asian elephants have also been used in forestry operations for many years and ­for ceremonial, tourism and transportation purposes. These activities provide an important source of income to local communities. They have been declared endangered and placed on the U.S. Endangered Species Act list, on the Red List of Mammals by the World Conser­va­tion Union and on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. 

            Despite international conservation efforts, the population of Asian elephants living in the wild has dramatically fallen to about 41,000 animals, which is less than 10 percent of its cousin living in Africa. These wild populations are located in thirteen countries in South and Southeast Asia. The largest population of 26,000 Asian elephants or 65 percent of the total, reside in India and the smallest population of 70 animals is located in Vietnam. ­­In addition, it has been estimated that there are about 16,000 domesticated elephants.

Habitat Loss Is the Primary Reason for Population Decline

There are a number of reasons why there has been a severe decline in the number of Asian elephants. The primary reason is the loss of habitat. All Asian elephants need a shady or forest environment and this habitat is disappearing rapidly throughout Asia. Due to their sheer size and social structure, elephants need large areas to survive. Since Asian elephants inhabit some of the most densely populated areas of the world, forest clearance for homes and large-scale agricultural crops have resulted in a dramatic loss of thousands of acres of their habitat.

            While poaching for ivory has not been an overriding reason for its decline, Asian elephants of both sexes are killed for bones, hide, meat and teeth. Hide is used for bags and shoes in China and Thailand and bones, teeth and other body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine to cure various ailments.

In 1997, Congress enacted the Asian Elephant Conservation Act. Under the terms of this bill, an Asian Elephant Conservation Fund was created.  This mechanism authorized an appropriation of up to $5 million per year until September 30, 2002. On February 12, 2002, this law was extended until September 30, 2007.

H. R. 465 will extend the ability of the Secretary of the Interior to make conservation grants at the existing level of up to $5 million per year until September 30, 2012. Since its enactment into law, Congress has appropriated $8.3 million in federal funds, which was matched by an additional $10.3 million in private donations. This money was spent to underwrite 171 conservation grants in 13 South and Southeastern Asian range countries.

            The type of projects funded include:

-         Construction of anti-poaching camps;

-         Equipping protected area field staff in India;

-         Promotion of elephant conservation in Asia;

-         Resettlement of elephants; and

-         School education to support Asian elephant conservation and trace the mobility patterns, population dynamics and feeding patterns of elephants.

The non-governmental sponsors of these projects were: Center of Environment Education, International Elephant Foundation; Fauna and Flora International; Smithsonian Institute; Wildlife Conservation Society; and the World Wildlife Fund.

For more information, access the Committee on Natural Resources’ Minority website at:


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Steve Hansen

Director of Communications

Republican Staff

U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources

1329 Longworth HOB

Washington, D.C. 20515

(202) 225-7749

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