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The political way to protect animals

A zookeeper sprays water on Asian elephants at

A zookeeper sprays water on Asian elephants at the zoo in Berlin, Germany, on June 25 2019. Photo Credit: JENS SCHLUETER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Ever feed a peanut to an elephant? Ever meet a kid who doesn’t like elephants? What do you think of when you think of elephants? Dumbo? Horton? The Republican Party?

Sunday is National Elephant Appreciation Day. But I doubt whether they appreciate what we’re doing to them.

Elephants are highly intelligent and very social. Ever hear the expression “an elephant never forgets”? That’s because they have the largest brain of any land animal, with a huge portion of it devoted to memory.

Lately, that might not be such a good thing.

In 1978, the African elephant was listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. But African elephant populations continued to plunge, and in 2016, a ban on commercial trade in African elephant ivory went into effect.

Then the Trump administration had a brainstorm: loosen restrictions around the import of African elephant trophies. The action brought attention to Eric and Donald Trump Jr.’s love of big-game hunting. Photos of them posing and grinning with an elephant they killed in 2011 on a safari re-emerged.

The photos, which also included a slaughtered leopard, sparked outrage. Donald Trump Jr. told Forbes magazine that, “Elephants are overpopulated in the area” and “need to be hunted to prevent them from further destroying their habitat.” But conservationists disagreed, noting that the elephant population is in sharp decline and that trophy hunting heightens demand for tusks and other wild animal collectibles.

To add insult to injury (and slaughter), last month the Trump administration severely weakened the Endangered Species Act, clearing the way for mining, drilling and development where protected species live.

Republicans, whose party symbol is an elephant, have tried for years to gut the Endangered Species Act, and finally succeeded. Congratulations are not in order.

What can we do about this? Work to raise awareness about the alarming decline in the number of elephants, as well as millions of other species worldwide, due to greed, special-interest influence on politicians, and heartless egomaniacs seeking hunting “trophies” to display on their walls.

What else? Vote! Show up on election days and defeat politicians who support rollbacks of endangered species protections.

An elephant never forgets. Neither should we.

Follow playwright Mike Vogel at @mikewrite7.

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