Expected Announcement From U.S. FWS Will Close Elephant Imports From Zimbabwe, Tanzania

Discussion in 'News & Announcements' started by AfricaHunting.com, Apr 4, 2014.

  1. AfricaHunting.com

    AfricaHunting.com FOUNDER AH Ambassador

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    Response to USFWS ban

    This report/response to USFWS ban below was sent to me by an AH member who received it from a hunter who is right now hunting tuskers in in Zimbabwe.




    Below is one of the reports that we have submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in connection with their decision to ban the importation of sport hunted ivory from Zimbabwe and Tanzania for 2014. For those of you who are concerned, please circulate to promote awareness of the actual situation on the ground.

    Please note that the movie "Grey Matters" is NOT an Osprey production.


    Report on Elephant numbers in Zimbabwe

    The banning of the importation of sport-hunted ivory into the USA
    The United Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) states that the poisoning of 300 elephant in Hwange National Park validates Zimbabwe's elephant poaching issues. The actual number was between 120- 130 as per a report from Mr. Collin Gillies who is the chairman of the Matabeleland Branch of Wildlife and Environment, Zimbabwe. If the service is prepared to accept this false information as fact, it calls into question the validity of the rest of its intelligence.

    All the cases of poisoned elephant were actually found by professional hunters. Thys De Vries in the Josibanini area of Hwange and Pete Fick in the Ngamo forestry area and the Maitengwe area. Had these professional hunters not been in the field, and the only viable hunting in these areas is elephant hunting, red flags would not have been raised.

    The poachers from that poaching incident were hammered, 4 groups were caught and only a few individuals from each group escaped but they are known and will be on the run forever. All others arrested were sentenced to jail terms of more than 5 years. The poisoning has not occurred again since the arrest of these poachers. The successful and effective response appears to have worked at least for the short term. The hunting operations on the boundaries of the park are a very effective deterrent to poaching operations. If they are forced to leave there will be nobody to monitor the situation.

    The Hwange National Park has the largest population of elephant in Zimbabwe. The park's longest boundary is also the southern most boundary of the biggest elephant population in the world i.e. KAZA (the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Welcome to Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) | Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA)) This boundary is with the Tsholotsho and Maitengwe communal areas.

    The sport-hunting quota of elephant from the three hunting areas (Maitengwe, Tsholotsho north and Tsholosho south) is between 30 -35 per annum. This number has been the consistent annual off-take in these areas for nearly 20 years - it is sustainable.

    The financial value of this sport hunted quota that fits within the CITES approved quota administered by DNPWM can be quantified in 3 ways:

    1. Trophy fees paid to District Councils average $ 15 000 per elephant multiplied by 35 gives a total of $ 525 000. This actually constitutes 95% of their total CAMPFIRE income from tourism and wildlife.

    Of this total, 85% goes straight back into ward and village level projects. Their impact is huge as an example a typical twin classroom blocks for 70-80 students costs in the region of $ 50 000 each to build.

    2. An equivalent amount of money is generated through daily rates into the local economy by hunting safari operations in the form of staff salaries, foodstuffs, transport, diesel, the purchase of thatching grass from local people, the hiring of casual labor for road-clearing and other maintenance work.

    3. The amount of philanthropic dollars from sport-hunters who visit the area almost matches that again on a per annum basis.

    An example of this is a project that was initiated by a sport-hunter through Living Waters. In the Maitengwe area 24 village wells were sunk and equipped and 18 in Tsholotsho, each well costing $ 10 000. To find out more about Living Waters click on this link. Our Work | Living Water International

    These amounts may not seem much to the average American but to poor villages living on the frontline with wildlife, it is a lot of money. The average family incomes are less than $500 per year. These are the same people that will either report or support the Chinese sponsored poachers when they come back to town after the sport-hunting operators move out. Last year in the aftermath of the poisoning incidents they exposed the poachers and that led to the arrests of most of them. In the absence of sport hunting generated revenues there is little doubt what they will do next time.

    Another critical benefit of the sport hunting of these 35 elephant produces 70 tons of read meat per annum for the local communities. This equates to 1.3 tons per week for these communities that eat protein on average one meal per week.

    The San people who were displaced from Hwange National Park when it was created are totally reliant on trophy hunted elephant meat for survival. Without it they would be totally destitute.

    Prior to the launching of this successful CAMPFIRE program in this area more elephants were shot on problem animal control (crop-raiders that annihilate the villages only source of food) for zero return than are sport hunted today.

    Hunting companies started pumping water in Hwange Park in 2002 because the Zimbabwean Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management (DNPWM) were no longer able to keep the pumps going because of a financial crisis. Since then hunters have kept tens of thousands of elephants alive, principally in the southern quarter of the park.

    Through the servicing and maintenance of pumps and waterholes by the hunting operators, 8000 elephant are provided with water. At the end of the dry season each year 130,000 US gallons of water are pumped to the surface per day to sustain the elephant and the other wildlife species.

    The Maitengwe dam also provides water to all of the wildlife in the Sibanini area of the park once all of the natural waterholes have dried up inside the park. Every year repairs to the dam have to be carried out because of the intense pressure that is placed on the dam by elephant and other wildlife species as well as the local community cattle. The hunting safari operators carry out these repairs.

    The Rural district councils realize $ 525 000 per annum from trophy fees from the sustainable sport hunted elephant quota. There is one photographic lodge in the area which generates $ 30 000 per year in revenue for the council. By next year there will be three photographic lodges which should increase this total to $ 100 000 which is still well short of the $ 500 000 realized through trophy elephant hunting.

    The closing of elephant hunting for US hunters through the ban of the importation of trophy hunted ivory will not stop the poaching of elephant and the actions of the FWS are totally irresponsible and in fact extremely dangerous. The minimal poaching that occurs, and the taking of 35 trophy elephant a year pales into insignificance to the real problems that Hwange and indeed the whole of Zimbabwe faces and that is the over-population of elephant.


    The History of Hwange National Park
    It is important to understand the history of Hwange National Park to realize how the present circumstances have arisen.

    When Ted Davidson, the first Warden of the park, arrived in 1922 he realized that the provision of water was going to be the key factor. By July every year, in all but exceptionally wet seasons, most of the water had dried up and water-dependant game were forced to leave the park. And move into conflict with a rapidly increasing human population around the Park. The elephant population at that time was between 500-1000.

    Most of Hwange National Park is flat and sandy, with little run-off during the rains; consequently there are no permanent rivers that flow year-round and very few small water- courses.

    There are, however, numerous natural pans formed over thousands of years by animal activity. These pans are seasonal, only filling with the arrival of the rains. The game park sits above a network of fossil riverbeds containing vast amounts of water and so a program to sink boreholes near established pans and pump water into them was started.

    Windmills were erected to pump water into the pans but as wildlife populations flourished in particular elephants, they became unable to sustain the demand of the increasing water dependent animal populations.

    During the 1950's and 60's the introduction of diesel engines to supplement the windmills in pumping water into the pans improved the situation dramatically. Year round water soon had an effect on game migration, too.

    By 1980 elephant populations had reached 25 000 and the sustainability of the system exceeded as woodlands and other herbivore species collapsed.

    The present estimate of Hwange's elephant population ranges between 25 000 and 40 000. There is some debate as to the actual number but it is irrelevant. There is very clearly a massive overpopulation when seen in the context of limited food supplies within range of available surface water.

    During the drought of 2012 large numbers of elephant died of starvation within Hwange National Park. The meat from these animals rotted in the bush as the natural scavengers could not deal with the amount.

    Click on the link below to watch a trailer of the movie 'Grey Matters' which highlights the crisis.



    So we are faced with a farcical situation with a starving elephant population on one side of the fence and on the other one of the poorest communities in the world being denied revenue from the utilization of a natural resource because of a perceived but inaccurate concern for the wellbeing of a single animal species that is actually in a state of overpopulation.

    Quite simply, the ecosystem of this part of Africa cannot sustain these elephant numbers. For FWS to declare that sport hunting within the communal lands neighbouring Hwange is having a detrimental effect on this population is ludicrous and without any scientific basis as is the charge that the illegal off take of elephant within Hwange National Park is of the same gravity to that of the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania.

    Zig M.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 28, 2014
  2. Hank2211

    Hank2211 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    I suggest we compare this piece and Ron Thomson's (earlier in the thread) with the explanation for the ban given for this by Gavin Shire of the US FWS. Then ask yourself a few simple questions. Which side presents the more compelling case? Which side has the ring of truth to it? Which side seems more to reflect the views of special interests? Can any rational person say that what the FWS has done will help the African elephant? The people of Africa?

    Yes, we should write letters. Yes, we should contact politicians. Yes, we should support our hunting/conservation organizations. But I am afraid, even as I do those things, that I know what the result will be.
  3. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    I agree with you Hank, we are outnumbered...plain and simple.
  4. Jonathan Swatts

    Jonathan Swatts New Member

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    Perhaps what is needed is a mindshift on our part. If they want to stop hunting by banning trophy imports then we need to adapt in order to survive. Now I realise that a trophy is very important to some people and in many cases is the "be all and end all" for some people BUT we are always going on about how the hunt is about the experience and not the trophy etc etc so why should this ban stop us from hunting an elephant? So what if you cant import your trophy, that does not diminish the experience does it? You will still have your photos/video won't you? One day when you are lying on your deathbed and can't go downstairs to your trophy room to look at your ivory you will still have the very vivid memory of your elephant hunt in Africa replaying in your mind and nobody can ever take that away from you.

    and if you REALLY need a trophy then why not have a fibreglass mould made of your tusks that look exactly like the real thing...just like fishermen do with trophy fish...it might not be ivory, but it will look exactly like the real thing anyway.

    Its time for us to say f*&% you.....we hunt for the experience, not the trophy so your tactics will not work on us!!

    Just my 2 cents....
  5. Hank2211

    Hank2211 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    Not sure when facts vs. opinion, truth vs. lies, and right vs. wrong became a numbers game, but you are right enysse.
  6. RogerHeintzman

    RogerHeintzman AH Enthusiast

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    Brickburn,

    The Lacey Act is transporting illegally taken animals across state lines. Now be it, illegally taken tusks brought into the US, legally taken tusks with falsified paperwork brought to US etc. etc.
  7. AfricaHunting.com

    AfricaHunting.com FOUNDER AH Ambassador

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    Email that I received from Tanzania Safari Outfitters Association (TASOA) - www.tasoa.org.


    Respected Stakeholders,
    please find attached a letter in relevance to the recent ban.
    I hope I have managed to convey your position and principle.
    We must now work tirelessly to gain as much support and coverage on this topic. Today it is the elephant, tomorrow it will be the lion... before we know it, all the wildlife we've dedicated our lives to protecting and utilizing for ours and local community livelihoods, will all be compromised on the account of emotional desires by people who lack a sense of reality and have bi knowledge about facts on the ground.
    Your continued feedback and support is highly appreciated.
    Kind regards,
    Ryan Shallom
    Executive Secretary

    Attached Files:

  8. RogerHeintzman

    RogerHeintzman AH Enthusiast

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    Just proves the rogue department heads in this administration!!


    "A Dream can be relived, again and again in Africa."
  9. Wheels

    Wheels GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    I just returned to the States yesterday. This is the body of a letter sent today to my Congressman and Senators. These have also been followed up with phone calls. Now I wait.

    The Honorable James Lankford


    Dear Congressman,

    On March 22, 2014, I travelled to Zimbabwe to hunt elephant. This has been a lifelong dream including years of saving money to afford this opportunity.

    Hunting elephant is legal in Zimbabwe and the proper licensing procedures were followed. On March 30, 2014, I was successful in taking an elephant.

    On April 4, 2014, United States Fish and Wildlife announced that legally taken sport-hunted elephant from Zimbabwe wouldn't be allowed to enter the United States, and back-dated the effective date to January 1, 2014. Fish and Wildlife Service News Release System

    I have spent money to hunt elephant, been successful, and that money has now been changed into private property, i.e.: ivory, skin in various forms, etc. Due to a back-dated ruling by USFW, I cannot now bring that private property into my country or state. USFW has effectively taken my private property without compensation contrary to the Fifth Amendment.

    As one of your constituents, I ask for your help in interceding with USFW on my behalf to allow my private property to legally enter the United States that I may enjoy that property in my home.

    Your Humble Constituent,
  10. Bos en Dal Safaris

    Bos en Dal Safaris AH Enthusiast

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    Hi Bob

    I wich this whole thing turn out to the best. And that the people imementing this while thing will come to theyr sences and see that the sport hunti g of ellephants in botb these countries will contribute to the concervency to the animals.

    Hope in the new future you can enjoh your legaly hunted elephant can be displayed in your home

    Best regards
  11. Paw Print

    Paw Print SPONSOR AH Fanatic

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    Congratulations with the successfull hunt. I surely hope a way is found to import your trophy.
    Best of luck.
  12. gxsr-sarge

    gxsr-sarge AH Veteran

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    Wheels

    Very nicely drafted letter. While I'm sure that somehow your trophies will make it back to the US (as you pointed out, retraotive "rulemaking" is "no-no"), remember that we can't take any of that with us - it's the experience and memories that mold us.

    Please share some pics and stories of your elephant hunt!
  13. Wheels

    Wheels GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Thanks for the kind wishes.

    I will get a report and photos put together in the next few weeks.
  14. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR GOLD BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Constitution, what Constitution.

    I think a little call to SCI Legal Task Force Committee or DSC might provide an opportunity to use your situation as the perfect legal battle.

    That will get the USFWS's attention.
  15. sestoppelman

    sestoppelman SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    I like your letter, though fear it will fall on deaf ears. Its worth the try though. Good luck.
  16. AfricaHunting.com

    AfricaHunting.com FOUNDER AH Ambassador

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    RON THOMSON'S LETTER TO THE US FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE

    RON THOMSON'S LETTER TO THE US FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE
    April 16, 2014 at 12:29am
    DATE: 12 APRIL 2014

    P.O. Box 452
    Kenton-on-Sea 6191
    South Africa
    Email: magron@ripplesoft.co.za
    Website: www.ronthomsonshuntingbooks.co.za


    To: Mr. Gavin Shire,
    US Fish & Wildlife Service.

    Dear Mr. Shire,

    I wish to respond to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's recent suspension of the importation (to the U.S.A.) of sport-hunted African elephant trophies taken in Tanzania and Zimbabwe during the calendar year 2014. I trust that the following report will give you a genuine insight into the REAL circumstances of Zimbabwe's (and south central Africa's) elephant populations.

    [HR][/HR]


    REPORT

    A GENERAL OVERVIEW ON ZIMBABWE'S ELEPHANT POPULATIONS AND THE CONDITIONS OF THE HABITATS THAT SUPPORT THEM

    First of all, I must introduce myself.

    My name in Ron Thomson. I am a 75 year old ex-game Warden from Rhodesia & Zimbabwe. I served in the Rhodesian and then Zimbabwean, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management for 24 years (1959 to 1983). Not only was I an active field officer in the department, I was also a Member of the British Institute of Biology (London) & Chartered Biologist for European Union (for c.20 years). If you investigate my history, you will discover that I have had a very distinguished career and that I have extensive big game hunting, management and capture experience in Africa.

    For the last 25 years I have been - and continue to be - a wildlife journalist in South Africa specialising in writing books and magazine articles about many wildlife subjects -including and particularly 'the principles and practices of wildlife management'. You might say, therefore, that I have been 'in the job' for 55 years.

    I know the 5000 sq mile Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe very well. I served three years in the park as a young game ranger (1960 to 1964). At that time (1960) there were only 3500 elephants in the national park (physically counted). They were then already demolishing their habitat & in the process they were eliminating various tree species - notably the Mukwa (Pterocarpus angolensis); and others. Many of those tree species are now locally extinct.

    At that time it was determined the park should carry no more than 2500 elephants (one elephant per two square miles); and I was one of two young game rangers who were tasked with making the necessary population reductions. In those days there was no hunting (or culling) allowed inside the national park, so we were required to find and to destroy all elephants that left the park and that were living (seasonally and temporarily) in the Ndebele Tribal Trust Lands outside the park boundaries. The meat then went to the local people. I carried out this elephant population reduction in addition to my normal game ranging duties for three years (1961, 62 & 63).

    Proper elephant culling commenced inside the national park in 1965 whereafter (until 1987) 300 to 500 elephants were taken off every year. It was not enough.

    Hwange (called 'Wankie' in those days) was the love of my life and throughout my career in national Parks I paid close attention to what was going on in Hwange vis-a-vis the elephant management situation. From the beginning of 1964, I was absent from Hwange except for occasional visits for 18 years.

    During my period of absence from Hwange, I hunted and killed several thousand elephants (over a period of 5 years) in the Binga district of the Middle Zambezi Valley: (1) In protection of the Batonka people's crops (The Batonka were refugees from the Lake Kariba basin); (2) to feed the Batonka people (after Lake Kariba filled to capacity for the first time in 1963); and (3) to eliminate elephants (and buffalo) in the Sebungwe Tsetse Fly Corridors (This to stop the spread of tsetse flies into the country's commercial highveld farming areas).

    In 1971/72, I was lead hunter, and commander of the operation, when we reduced the elephant population in the Gonarezhou National Park by 2,500 animals.

    So although I was 'away' from Hwange for 18 years, therefore, I was still very actively involved in elephant management work within Zimbabwe.
    I returned to Hwange in 1981 as the Provincial Game Warden-in-charge of the national park.

    There were 23,000 elephants in the Hwange in 1981. This was because - for many years during the 1970s - the department's expert 'culling team' was unable to keep up with the numbers that had to be removed. The last elephant culling exercise in Hwange took place in 1987. The reason for the culling team not being able to keep up with the culling task in Hwange, was because it was also responsible of culling elephants in every other major national park in the country. And, in the late 1980s the unit became totally occupied in catching, and translocating, the surviving black rhinos in the lower Zambezi Valley where they were being heavily poached by Zambian poachers.

    So, a new and very arbitrary elephant management target was determined for Hwange one that was thought might be attainable. The new idea was to reduce the elephant numbers in Hwange from 23 000 to 14 600 (one elephant be square kilometre). (c.5 000 square miles = c.14 600 square kilometres). Even this reduced number, however, was never achieved.

    I was incensed by this (what I considered to be) dereliction of our duty believing that a major facet of our management responsibilities was being neglected. I was very aware that our principle wildlife management objective at Hwange was to maintain the park's biological diversity and we were NOT achieving that desideratum (because there were too many elephants)!

    But, at that time, the new Zimbabwe government had just taken office and money was short. So was the necessary elephant hunting/culling expertise 'short' - because many experienced white game rangers had left the country after Zimbabwe's independence in 1980.

    In 1981 the habitat that I took responsibility for in Hwange National Park was nothing like the one I remembered from the early 1960s. All the Mukwa trees had gone. Very few large Mlala palm trees were left standing. Several Acacia and Combretum tree species - entire species - appeared to be locally extinct; and the once heavy undergrowth in the ecotones of the teak forests - on the edge of the forests where they joined the grasslands - was now sparse and straggly.

    The grasslands were a mess. The thick cynodon grass swards that once grew on all the major grassland/drainage lines had been eaten into extinction. In many places, where there had once been thick grass, there was nothing but wind-blown and rippling Kalahari desert sand. This was all caused by too many elephants and too many other grazers. But the elephants caused the most damage. They eat practically nothing but grass during the six-month long rainy season when the grass is green and palatable and, at that time of the year, they eat grass in very large quantities.

    So, the Hwange National Park I inherited in 1981 needed an awful lot of very careful habitat management; and the elephant population needed to be reduced (then) by 20 000 animals. And, I could visibly see that the national park was already (then) well advanced towards becoming a desert.

    Little has changed since the early 1980s. I have not been back since 1983 but the habitat degradation trends (towards the park becoming a desert) that were very obvious to me in 1983, can only have progressed in the same direction over the last 30 years. The elephant population was not 'managed' in any way in the interim - and it has (at least) doubled in number since 1983 - so how could the habitat conditions possibly have got better?

    Since 1987 NO elephant population reduction has taken place at all in Zimbabwe (or Hwange). Since the (Illogical and universal) CITES international ivory trade ban came into force in 1989, Zimbabwe could not afford to cull its elephants because, prior to 1989, the sale of ivory paid the huge costs of the culling exercises.

    The elephant population in Hwange now stands at between 30,000 and 50,000. I believe it must be nearer the 50 000 mark (or more) - because at a 7.2 percent incremental rate, the population was doubling its numbers every 10 years at the beginning of the 1980s. Dispersal has undoubtedly taken place also, however out of the national park - induced by population pressure, and lack of food and water inside the national park. And calf mortality must have been horrific over the last 30 years.

    When nutrition levels drop, lactating mother elephants are subjected to tremendous energy stress to keep themselves alive AND to produce milk for their babies. And when there is no food available during the last several months of every dry season, the mother cow's milk dries up. In nature - when food is short - it is more important that the mother survives and that the baby dies! In 1982/83 I shot a great many baby elephants that had separated from their mothers. Without milk, they did not have the strength to keep up with their mothers on the daily journeys they had to make, to and from the waterholes, in their search for non-existent food.

    When baby elephants are thus abandoned, they fall easy prey to lions and hyenas that rip them to pieces in the night and devour them alive because it is: (1) difficult to kill a baby elephant by way of the lion's normal manner of killing (strangulation); and (2) it is not easy to rip open even a baby elephant's thick skin to get at the meat.

    I hesitate to make even the wildest guesstimate as to how many baby elephants died this terrible death, every dry season, between the time I left Hwange in 1983 and now (2014) because for all that time (and more) Hwange has been carrying grossly far too many elephants; and food, every dry season, is in very short supply. THAT is a 'given'.

    I find it difficult, therefore, to accept the US Fish & Wildlife Service's reasons for suspending the importation, into the USA, of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe; bearing in mind all the foregoing; and bearing in mind that several tens-of-thousands of elephants SHOULD be removed from the Hwange population for good and defendable wildlife management reasons mainly to rescue what limited biological diversity still remains in the national park.

    So now let's take your decision apart point by point:

    STATEMENT (1): You say: "There has been a significant decline in the elephant population" (although you DO say that "available data" is limited).

    My first observation in this regard is: WHY did you make such an important decision if your information was so deficient and could NOT POSSIBLY stand up to any degree of responsible scrutiny? The fact that you base your decision ENTIRELY upon "Anecdotal evidence, such as the widely publicized poisoning last year of 300 elephants in Hwange National Park, suggests that Zimbabwe's elephants are (also) under siege" - is simply NOT good enough!

    But let us examine this statement in its broadest sense.

    (a). It would appear that you have based your opinion (inter alia) on press statements which allude to 300 elephants being poisoned by poachers in Hwange National Park last year (2013). Elephants WERE poisoned in Hwange last year but I have information from a more reliable source (from the horse's mouth) that tells me the actual figure was less than half that number. You cannot rely on the veracity of the press! However, let's accept the figure of 300; and let's test its value as a valid determinant for your decision. So, note, from the very beginning I am giving YOUR argument all the positive advantages.

    (b). I have stated that I believe there are between 30,000 and 50,000 elephants in Hwange today. Let's take the lower figure 30,000 which will give YOUR suppositions YET greater strength.

    (c). The incremental rate of Hwange's elephant population (in the 1960s & 70s) was estimated to be 7.2 percent which gives a population doubling time of 10 years. Let's half that figure and say the incremental rate is 3.6 percent to add EVEN MORE strength to YOUR bow. This gives us a population doubling time of 20 years.

    (d). Now we get down to the nitty-gritty. 3.6% of 30,000 elephants gives us an actual annual increase of 1080 elephants per year. This figure (in general terms) equates to the number of calves which survive their first three years of life.

    (e). When we take 300 (the number of elephants poisoned in 2013) from 1080 this leaves us STILL with an annual increase of 780 elephants that year.

    (f). In a natural elephant population 50 percent are bulls and 50 percent are cows. The ratio, however, is greatly skewed in favour of cows when every year bulls are selectively shot by hunters. But let's ignore that obvious fact. Nevertheless, ignoring that fact is yet ANOTHER bent that is in favour of YOUR argument. So I suggest we accept that of the 30,000 elephants, 15,000 are cows.

    (g). Of those 15,000 cows with ages ranging from 1 to 60 at least three quarters are of a breeding age (Puberty at 10 years; Senility at 50). So 11,250 cows are breeding animals.

    (h). The normal interval between elephant calves is 4 years. So the number of calves born every year, on average, is one quarter of 11,250; that equals
    2,812. A number of these will die during their first dry season (because of elephant overpopulation).

    (i). The fact that we have now calculated that 2 812 new elephants are born to the Hwange elephant population every year - even if the population remained static at 30 000 (which it doesn't; it is constantly increasing) - this fact is now definitely NOT in favour of YOUR arguments. So the once-off poisoning of 300 elephants in 2013 - representing one percent of the population - had NO IMPACT whatsoever on the Hwange elephants.

    (j). Furthermore, the fact that the poisoning happened during one short period of one year; that the responsible poachers were quickly apprehended and received heavy gaol sentences; and that there has never been a recurrence of such an event, suggests that the Zimbabwe authorities were "on the ball'. It cannot be said of them, therefore as you accuse Tanzania that there is a lack of effective wildlife law enforced in Zimbabwe.

    (k) You have absolutely no right, therefore, to make untrue statements that Zimbabwe's elephants are in decline or under siege because they are clearly NOT; AND the basis for your decision to ban Zimbabwean elephant hunting trophies from being imported to the United States is TOTALLY invalid.

    STATEMENT (2.): Further referring to your belief that "there is a significant decline in the elephant population" in Zimbabwe; and that "the elephants are under siege".

    (a). Nowhere in your dissertation is there any reference to the numbers of elephants that are being carried by Zimbabwe's game reserves relative to the sustainable elephant carrying capacities of their habitats. This indicates to me that you have no interest, or concern - whatsoever - about the related and vitally important ecological considerations that SHOULD determine elephant management decisions. You are concerned with NUMBERS and that is all! You are DEFINITELY not AWARE of the fact, and seemingly not interested, that every single big game national park in Zimbabwe is GROSSLY OVERSTOCKED with elephants or that ALL these game reserves are ALL being converted into deserts; that the national parks' other wildlife is consequently in decline; and that they are ALL losing their once very rich biological diversities ALL because there are TOO MANY ELEPHANTS.

    (b). If only you were right that there is a significant decline in Zimbabwe's elephants! If that were true there would be a chance that Zimbabwe's once rich biological diversity could be rescued from the abyss. Unfortunately you are wrong. There are NO serious declines in Zimbabwe's elephant numbers. And when ZIMBABWE might be desirous of legitimately 'culling' several tens of thousands of elephants' because it definitely has far too many elephants - what does a mere 300 (lost to poison) matter (and here I am talking about statistics not ethics or emotions)?

    (c). Now I would like to ask YOU, Sir, a number of related questions. It is MY contention that ALL of Zimbabwe's wildlife sanctuaries require massive elephant population reductions; followed by consistent annual culling programmes. IF Zimbabwe were to institute such a programme would YOU - the USFWS - support Zimbabwe at CITES in a bid to be able to sell the ivory and elephant hide that was forthcoming therefore? Or would you 'blacklist' Zimbabwe for NOT adhering to the US Fish & Wildlife Service dictates? I am sure the Zimbabweans would want to hear your answer to THAT question!
    What is abundantly clear is that WHAT YOU BELIEVE AFRICA's wildlife authorities should do with regard to wildlife management practices and the marketing of their game products is NOT what Africa's wildlife authorities would like to do. And there is a very good reason for this.

    America's 'wildlife culture' is based upon an 'anti-market hunting' philosophy. Americans generally - believe it is immoral to 'make money' out of indigenous wildlife (and, in America, it is illegal to do so). The wildlife cultures of the countries of southern Africa, on the other hand, are all based upon 'the commercialisation of wildlife'. America's wildlife culture and the wildlife cultures of Africa's southern states are, therefore, TOTALLY antithetical. They are diametrically opposed. Having said that, however, we need to understand that ALL, and every, national sub-culture - within each and every nation are very strong psychological forces in their national psyches.

    In a context other than wildlife - but a parallel one to explain this fact - try forcing an Arab nation (whose citizens are radically Islamic) to adopt the Jewish (or Christian; or Buddhist) religion!!!!

    Most people believe in the righteousness of their own (various and many) national sub-cultures which include political; language; legal; dress; religion, education; business; agriculture...et cetera - and wildlife subcultures. It is right and proper that each and every nation should uphold, with high esteem, their cultural fabrics because they evolved over a very long period of time as a consequence of their historical experiences. Each sub-culture is an inherent part of a national cultural whole. The combination and the interrelationships of their various sub-cultures are, in fact, vitally important because it is from this complicated matrix that each country's national character is moulded.

    What responsible nations should be prepared to do, therefore, is to recognise their differences in this regard, and NOT try to force their cultural opinions and beliefs on other people. What works for the Americans will not necessarily work for other people and most probably will not!

    The 'commercial basis' of the wildlife cultures of southern Africa is just as important an issue to the citizens of the southern African states, as is the 'anti-market hunting' cultural issue important to the citizens of America. Neither country, therefore, should try to FORCE its opposing cultural beliefs on the other but rather they should give each other the freedom to exercise their cultural beliefs in whatever way they like within their respective areas of jurisdiction. You cannot take a piece from one jigsaw puzzle and force it into the picture of another jigsaw puzzle - because it just does not 'fit' - so you can NOT force one nation's wildlife subculture onto another (because national wildlife subcultures are NOT interchangeable).

    In making this statement, I am NOT 'pointing fingers'. I am merely stating facts and, by so doing, I hope to make it easier for both of us to 'see' our respective differences. This raises all sorts of psychological obstacles between us and it will take extra special attention (from both of us) if we are to objectively see each other's points of view.

    I would like to point out that by imposing its 'will' on Tanzania and Zimbabwe by banning the importation of their elephant hunting trophies into the United States the USFWS has been blatantly imposing its own wildlife cultural interpretations onto these two foreign countries. No matter how much the USFWS may protest this fact, this is exactly what the USFWS has done with respect to its draconian ruling. So do not be surprised America, when AFRICA rejects this 'bullying' tactic when it starts to kick back when AFRICA begins looking towards other countries for its future partners other countries that respect Africa for 'what it is' rather than 'what they want to make of Africa; and how they can change our cultural character'.

    Just bear in mind that for many of us in Africa, our wildlife culture (interpreted in the context of what is BEST for Africa) is just as powerfully upheld by us, as is the religion of Islam by the Arabs.

    America, therefore, would be serving its own best interests if it stops meddling in our wildlife affairs, and if it stops trying to impose its will on Africa. It would behove America, in every way, to start working WITH Africa - genuinely - with the purpose of helping us to realise OUR dreams. Denying Tanzania and Zimbabwe access to the benefits that American hunters bring to this continent is a HUGE impediment to us realising our wildlife management objectives; and it is one (unnecessary and unjustified) obstacle that we could well do without.

    (d). Fulfilling OUR wildlife management 'needs' are much more important to US, than are YOUR opinions about what YOU believe we should be doing especially when you have now so thoroughly demonstrated that you have so little knowledge about what is REALLY going on in Africa, on the ground. It is, after all, AFRICA's wildlife resources we are talking about NOT YOURS! In this regard - with respect - you treat us like children (as if we are ignorant of wildlife and its management) and I resent that as do an awful lot of other people in Africa. WE, in fact, know MUCH MORE about Africa's wildlife and its management needs, than does the USFWS MUCH, MUCH, MUCH, MORE!

    This exemplifies the differences that can arise between people who have different wildlife cultural viewpoints; and who also have a great deal of tunnel vision.

    (e). Who would you consider to be "RIGHT", for example, when decisions have to made, and enacted, about the wildlife management practices in a sovereign African state? Would you favour the wishes of the African state (because the wildlife, after all, belongs to THEM), or would you insist that the USFWS is correct? This is a VERY pertinent question the answer to which the WHOLE OF AFRICA would dearly like to know the answer.

    If we take the current case in point the question about Americans hunting elephants in Tanzania and Zimbabwe and not being allowed to take their trophies home the USFWS has clearly FORCED THE ISSUE. They have, with one stroke of the pen, unilaterally decreed (by connivance) that they are going to stop Americans from hunting elephants in both these countries. So maybe my question is unnecessary? Maybe I already have the answer? But this has given me a good opportunity to make my point: WHAT RIGHT HAS AMERICA to interfere so blatantly (and so bombastically) in the wildlife management affairs of an African country (ESPECIALLY on such dubious grounds)? This reality has huge implications with regards to the successes and/or the failures that African states can expect when they try to implement their own home-grown wildlife management programmes. In effect - because HUNTING plays such a dominant role in the finances of Africa's wildlife management programmes - African states CANNOT devise or implement their own-designed wildlife programmes without first 'getting permission' from the USFWS in America. And how bizarre is that? And how ignominious is that for a sovereign African state?

    (f). Africa is very conscious of the impending massive explosion of its human population this century. Today there are 650 million people in Africa south of the Sahara. By the year 2100 there will be 2.5 billion (United Nations statistics). As a consequence, there are many people in Africa looking towards creating a new paradigm for our wildlife management programmes one that will WORK in the dense human population scenario that we know is coming. Many people (like me) realise that the ONLY solution to the very heavy pressures that our future human populations will be exerting on our wildlife sanctuaries during the latter part of this century - is to fully integrate the 'needs' of our national parks' with the 'needs' of the rural people who will be surrounding them.

    And we cannot achieve THAT if we are NOT FREE to act as circumstances evolve and dictate; and especially if we have America's USFWS breathing down our necks telling us what we can and cannot do. So Africa especially southern Africa would appreciate the USFWS (and America) 'backing off' so that we can 'paddle our own canoe'. We would like it better, however, if America changed its tune and gave us help when we are struggling to achieve 'our own' wildlife management goals. Africa WANTS to make a success of whatever it does this century and it does not need unnecessary impediments to be put in place by the USFWS.

    STATEMENT (3.): "Additional killing of elephants in Zimbabwe (and Tanzania), even if legal, is not sustainable and it is not currently supporting the conservation efforts that contribute towards the recovery of the species".

    (a). General: Once again I have to re-state that I have no idea where you get the idea that Zimbabwe's elephants need to "RECOVER"? And again I have to ask: Recover from WHAT?

    (b). Re Hwange National Park (and Zimbabwe generally): With regards to the 'non-sustainable' (use) aspect of your statement, I have indicated (above) that the elephant herds in Hwange are breeding in a more than a satisfactory manner. They are, in fact, breeding far too well. They are breeding themselves out of house and home. And they are increasing at an alarming rate.

    The REAL threat to the elephants of Hwange National Park (AND to other elephant populations in Zimbabwe) is lack of food at the height of the dry season which can and does cause huge die-offs when droughts are bad. Die-offs would not happen at all, however, if the elephants in Hwange (and elsewhere) were 'living within their means' in other words, if their numbers were of a size that their habitats could sustainably carry (even in a drought year). The biggest danger to Zimbabwe's elephants, therefore, actually comes from the elephants themselves from their HUGE population numbers; and from the constant non-sustainable 'mining' of their limited food supplies.

    So the perception that the USFWS has got, about the elephant situation in Hwange National Park (and elsewhere in Zimbabwe) could not be further from the truth.

    (c). Re. The elephants in Zimbabwe's 2000 square mile Gonarezhou National Park: I (and my supporting team) was directly responsible for reducing the elephant population in the Gonarezhou by 2500 animals in 1971/72 from 5000 to 2500. Yes! We cut the population right in half! 10 years later the population had increased to 5000; and a colleague of mine (and his team) again reduced that population by half (in 1982/83). Since then the elephant population in the Gonarezhou has increased without constraint and it now numbers in excess of 10,000; and the habitats in the game reserve have been TOTALLY ruined.

    The habitats will also now NEVER recover because the soil that once supported them has been washed down river into the Indian Ocean. This soil loss happened because the vegetative cover that once protected the soil from erosion is now gone. What caused the erosion (of the bare ground)? Every drop of rain that has fallen during the last 40 years; desiccation of the naked soil by the hot sun; the wind that blew the loose soil particles away; and trampling by a myriad of elephant feet and other animal hooves over the years! The root cause? Too many elephants!

    So the protection of ALL elephants, at any cost, is causing the TOTAL destruction of Zimbabwe's game reserves!

    Furthermore, the elephants have eaten into oblivion practically every baobab tree in the game reserve and, in 1960, there were HUNDREDS of giant baobabs in the park. LITERALLY HUNDREDS! Now, only those growing in remote positions amongst the rocks on the high hillsides (and so protected from elephants) survive. And the enormous baobab tree, Sir, lives to 5000 years old. That means they were 1700 years old (in the Gonarezhou) when Tutankhamen was Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. To me, the baobabs are far more important than the elephants that kill them; elephants, after all, live for only 60 years and elephants readily and quickly replace themselves. Baobabs do not!

    The riverine forests on the Nuanetsi River and on the Lundi River (inside the Gonarezhou), that I knew in 1968, have now all gone - completely. And the mopani woodlands, and the deciduous sandveld woodlands, are now just piles of broken tree trunks (where anything of them is left at all).

    In 1970, my estimate of the sustainable elephant carrying capacity for the Gonarezhou was 1000 animals (One elephant per two square miles). And if we want to help the game reserve's habitats to RECOVER, we should halve that number and start the habitat reconstruction process at a level that WILL ALLOW the habitats to recover. And once the habitats have been restored, we could THEN allow the elephants to return to 1000 - which would be achieved after only 10 years! Tragically, the giant baobabs those beautiful icons of Africa are gone forever.

    The Gonarezhou story exemplifies what our 'conservation' priorities should be. It tells us that our wildlife management 'concerns', in order of priority, should be:

    (1). Our First Priority Concern: should be for the well-being of 'The Soil' because without soil no plants can grow;

    (2). Our Second Priority Concern: should be for the well being of 'The Plants' (habitats & food) because without plants there would be no animals; and

    (3). Our Third (& Last) Priority Concern: should be for the well being of the animals.

    People who put their concern for animals FIRST are putting the cart before the horse. And, with regard to the issue we are addressing at this time, the USFWs priority concern is clearly 'for the Elephants'. The USFWS, therefore when it comes to their concerns for the wildlife resources of Africa - is clearly guilty of putting the 'conservation' cart before the horse!

    (d) Re: The game reserves of the middle and lower Zambezi valleys: The elephants in all these game reserves are in exactly the same kind of fix as those in Hwange and the Gonarezhou. Their elephant population numbers are all grossly excessive - because they have not been culled during the last 25 years; and because their habitats have been shredded.

    In the Chizarira and Matusadona National Parks, the once healthy miombo woodlands (1960 era) have all completely disappeared; only scrubby woody vegetation remains.

    In the Mana Pools and Lower Zambezi Valley game reserves the mopani woodlands are seriously degraded; many baobabs have been eliminated, others ruined; and the riverine forests (what is left of them) are degrading fast. At Mana Pools only the giant Acacia albida trees remain on the floodplain and they are still there ONLY because they are too big for the elephants to push over. But there are no replacements. And, within walking distance of water during the dry season, there is NO understory beneath the surviving big trees.

    (e). Management Goals: All in all, if we want to manage Zimbabwe's elephant populations for posterity (which SHOULD be our goal; and it SHOULD be YOUR goal, too, Sir), we should be thinking about (collectively) removing at least 100000 elephants from Zimbabwe's game reserves. This is a thumb-suck guesstimate because I do not know the REAL figures - game reserve by game reserve. But I make this bald statement with a purpose. I want you, Sir, 'to get the picture' that I am trying to paint for you - about the REAL status of elephants in Zimbabwe today. There are far too many for the available habitats to sustainably maintain; and, rather than Zimbabwe applying "RECOVERY" management strategies for its elephants, it needs to be applying DRASTIC "POPULATION REDUCTION" measures. We do not have to help elephants to 'recover' (from anything) they are quite adept at doing that without any help from us.

    (f) So.... when you talk about 'the recovery' of the elephant population in Zimbabwe, I remain astounded! Again I ask - perplexed - what 'recovery' are you talking about? In living memory there has been no slump in the numbers of elephant s in Zimbabwe. Over the past 55 years - the period that I can personally talk about authoritatively, because during that period I was personally involved (and/or familiar) with all aspects of elephant management in Zimbabwe there has ONLY been a persistent (and frightening) very fast rate of increase in elephant numbers. If Zimbabwe's elephant mega-population was to 'RECOVER' any more, it would implode upon itself.

    The wildlife management truth of the matter is that elephants in Zimbabwe will not prosper (that is, become vibrantly healthy) until the individual population numbers are reduced to a level that their respective habitats can sustainably support. And Zimbabwe is very far from achieving that state of affairs at this time.

    Currently, the Elephants of Zimbabwe - ALL populations - are living "ON" (or below) the nutritional poverty line during every six-month's long dry season. In every population their nutrition levels at that time of the year are so low (per capita) that there is a regular and very high mortality of calves up to one year of age (because their mother's milk dries up). And in bad drought years, young elephants up to the age of three and four years (and sometimes older) also die of starvation.

    When good year cycles return the survival of calves and juveniles improves - but many dry season deaths (due to starvation) still occur.

    CONCLUSION.

    With respect, Sir, the information you have been fed and which has led you to believe that Zimbabwe's elephants are in decline; and that they are threatened by Zimbabwe's current sustainable-use management programmes (which includes hunting) - is grossly inaccurate. I further contend, Sir, that your argument - that intervention by the USFWS is necessary to save Africa's elephants from extinction - is not just full of holes, it is one big hole.

    I cannot speak with the same kind of authority for Tanzania, but the ecological circumstances surrounding elephants and their management throughout savannah Africa are much the same. So I would recommend that your moratorium on the importation of elephant hunting trophies from both countries (Tanzania AND Zimbabwe) should be lifted and lifted immediately. If you have another problem with the Tanzanian government (which you seem to have), then deal with it at government level. Do not take out your chagrin (or whatever) on the country's elephants, its wildlife or its people.

    All your precipitate dictum has produced is one year of misery for a whole lot of Africa's people both within Zimbabwe and in Tanzania - and that statement will ONLY remain valid IF you rescind your illogical decision at the end of 2104. You must also be told - UNEQUIVOCALLY - that your action has opened wide the gates for the commercial poachers to enter all those wildlife areas where the hunters once operated. When professional hunters are in the field, they represent the biggest obstacle to poaching of all kinds! So, if your 'purpose' - by imposing the ban on elephant trophies into America - is genuine (that is, that it is truly intended 'to save the African elephant') your plan has been very badly conceived and it will go very badly awry.

    Furthermore, whilst your moratorium on elephant trophy exports to America remains in force, the professional hunters and their teams of 'local-people' staff will have to find something else to do for a whole year and if they can't find new (temporary) employment, they (and their families) will, quite literally starve. And all the many benefits that flow to the local rural people, and to the wildlife sanctuaries where the elephant hunting takes place - most of which comes from America hunters - will come to a sudden dead stop.

    The sustainable and ethical hunting of Africa's trophy animals is the BEST way to 'take wealth from the rich people of the First World' and 'give it to the poor people of Africa'. Nothing else matches it.

    So why are you doing this? Why are you imposing this importation ban on elephant trophies to the U.S. from Tanzania and Zimbabwe? Your rationale is so flawed I could fly a Boeing 747 through the holes in your argument (because you have NO argument). The imposition of your dictum, Sir, will have NO positive effects; it will NOT stop the poaching it will help the poachers; it will not help the elephants (and Africa's other wildlife) - it will hurt the elephants (and Africa's other wildlife); and it will hurt a whole lot of African people into the bargain as well, UNNECESSARILY.

    I am angry about your draconian decision. So are a whole lot of other people here in Africa. We are angry at the USFWS for basing such a huge decision on such flimsy 'evidence' 'evidence' that is, in fact, not 'evidence' at all, but YOUR 'whim'. Unthinkingly, you have set in motion a series of events that will very badly affect a great many people (AND our precious wildlife resources)! And we are particularly angry because your decision is based on a completely erroneous perception that, TRULY, has absolutely no basis in reality. The USFWS is WRONG, Sir. It is wrong in everything that it has done, in every respect, with regard to this terrible blunder.

    I believe, in view of the above, the USFWS does not even have to re-think the validity of (and to reverse) its decision to stop elephant trophy importations to the U.S. from BOTH countries. It was a wrong decision in the first place, all round! This conclusion is a no-brainer! The USFWS, therefore, should reinstate the previous status quo as quickly as possible. Your imperious dictum needs to be rescinded with immediate effect!

    On behalf of the whole of Africa, Sir, I trust that the information contained in this letter/report will help you to recognise, and to understand, the errors that are inherent in your information and in your judgements in this matter; and that you will find it in your heart (and in your protocols) to withdraw this unfortunate ruling right away.

    I have no axe to grind in this matter. I am too old to be a hunter and I have no vested interest in this whole salmagundi except that I love Africa and its wildlife (especially black rhinos and elephants). I just happen to know the subject matter very well, and I am aggrieved by the fact that the USFWS could have been so insensitive, so ill-advised, and so stupid as to have even considered this action at all. It adversely impacts so very seriously on everything in Africa that I love and cherish; and I cannot sit back and say nothing about it.

    In all sincerity,

    Ron Thomson

    CC: President Barack Obama,
    The White House,
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    Washington, D.C. 20500
    USA
  17. Wheels

    Wheels GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Yesterday I forwarded a copy of the above mentioned letter to SCI. Their litigation department sent out a form for me to fill out if I want to be part of a possible class action. I called their legal counsel and am waiting a returned call.

    Since it looks like I have standing and my situation is fairly narrow concerning the "taking" clause I am not sure if I am better off on my own or with SCI. SCI is wanting to overturn the ruling, I also want the ruling overturned but especially want to recover the trophy. Currently waiting to hear from my attorney.

    All the best.
  18. RogerHeintzman

    RogerHeintzman AH Enthusiast

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    We all know how "INCOMPETENT" the current administration is!!


    "A Dream can be relived, again and again in Africa."
  19. bluey

    bluey GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    gday wheels
    firstly congratulations on living out one of your lifelong dreams mate , that brightens up my day when hear of some one achieving a goal that's taken so long to kick :clapping::clapping:
    and secondly im sorry that your government has dished out such a kick in nuts ,mate. that must piss you off to no end .
    especially since your elephant was on the deck before this legislation was passed
    even though you have your memories and photos ,it leaves a bitter tatse in my mouth that you had your trophy before these wankers had their law .
    I truly hope that this works in your favour and you get to enjoy looking at your lifes goal every day when it is in your home .
    cant wait to read of this adventure and admire your bounty
  20. Wheels

    Wheels GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Thanks for the thoughts. I will try to get something posted soon.

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