I love elephants. If I were Austin enough to have a spirit animal it’d be a pachyderm. Heck, I’m a Tufts graduate; our mascot is P.T. Barnum’s Jumbo. Well, was until rioting students burned down the building in which the stuffed elephant resided. Anyway, hunting is the best way to protect African elephants. If the benefits (money, ivory and meat) went to the natives, – and I know that’s a big if – the natives would protect the mighty mammals against poaching. Prohibition? When did that ever work? Someone should tell Billy Joel and Fish (not Country Joe and the Fish) . . .

Use of ivory in musical instruments, such as piano keys and decorative inlays on guitars, is a significant driver of the trade. That realization has led Joel to take a stand against ivory use in instruments. Last year, the six-time Grammy award winner penned a letter backing statewide bans in New York and New Jersey on all ivory sales.

“There are other materials which can be substituted for piano keys,” he wrote on his website at the time. “But magnificent creatures like these [elephants] can never be replaced. Music must never be used as an excuse to destroy an endangered species.”

OK takepart.com, I’ll keep that in mind. And keep this in mind: I would never shoot an elephant (unless it put me and my loved ones in danger of death or grievous bodily harm and imminence was imminent). But sometimes the right thing to do isn’t the easy thing to do.

47 Responses to Note to Billy Joel: Support Elephant Hunting!

  1. Hay prohibition worked when they banned alcohol didn’t it? Banning ivory is working as well as that did. I am not for hunting an animal out of existence, but, hunting does work to make a heard grow.

  2. Yeah… you keep beating this drum Robert. You’re a smart guy, so I will just chock this up to a blind spot.

    First off, the income that comes from elephants, even if it DOES benefit people of communities, may very well ACCELERATE killing elephants BECAUSE of the money. Poor people aren’t always the best judges of planning ahead and conserving rare and amazing animals like elephants. A sustainable population vs. a quick money grab… isn’t the history of foreign aid and the like in Africa that if there’s a way to make a quick buck over conservative conservation, the quick buck will win?

    Second off, elephants are so critically endangered at this point that really the only thing that will stop the demand for dead elephants is trying to eliminate demand for dead elephant parts. Having people see elephants as a quick ATM or parts for an instrument are precisely wrong; ivory can be stored, hidden, and used as a capitalist store of value. An elephant, not so much. Thus under a capitalist mindset, the elephant is “inefficient” while still walking, as your potential investment can walk away and be stolen by others!

    Elephant ivory is a race to the bottom. It’s like the idea of virginity auctions. In theory, yeah, virgins can be valuable, the bride price can benefit families, etc. What it leads to in reality are women being raped to lower their value or dishonor a family, murder of said woman in horrific ways, and longstanding vendettas and treating women like chattel.

    Sorry Robert, Elephants=Ivory=Conservation just doesn’t work very well.

    • “Eliminate demand for dead elephant parts,” in other words, kill all of the Chinese. Not going to happen.

    • Marco, I understand where your logic is getting skewed. You mistake Robert’s post meaning the elephants would be able to be hunted by all of the locals, which in that case you would probably be correct. This is called the tragedy of the commons, everyone owns something and they feel they need to get their (big) slice before its all gone, then it’s all gone. What Robert is suggesting is a company to be started whose stated purpose is to protect the elephants from poachers, breed the elephants, and the sell a limited number of hunts of selected elephants. At first, people will pay big bucks for the few opportunities to legally hunt these animals, and as the population increases, the number of hunts can increase, the amount of legal ivory can increase, win, win, win, win. This model has worked in the past and can work for this, as long as pie in the sky progressives get out of the way and let the free market and private ownership save the elephants.

      • Omar, I understood that is what he meant.

        And that works. When you have INTENSE laws that make machine guns VERY bad to use illegally, people pay crazy prices to go to knob creek to have fun, or to even own their own.

        That only works because the threat of being caught is SO high that the prices become palatable.

        Let’s face it. The security situation in Africa is NOT good enough that the market would stay limited to only *legal* hunts. If it costs $50,000 to shoot an elephant, and you have very poor people there who have no other job prospects, you’re telling me some group of 17 year olds won’t try to track an elephant (they have nothing better to do) and then arrange to get someone from the west to shoot it for $10,000? That’s the situation of Somalia piracy: no job outlets, so risking your life for piracy isn’t such a bad idea, because it’s not like you have any other alternative besides becoming a militiaman.

        So yeah, if Elephants were native to America, you might have a point. In Africa- no. Inflating the value of elephants, and having the locals see a DEAD elephant as a money maker is a LOSING proposition. The ONLY winning proposition is if they see LIVE elephants, and MORE elephants as a winning proposition. There just isn’t enough rule of law for this idea to not spiral out of control.

        See the Spaniards “We have to convert you then kill you to keep your soul safe” to the native Americans. See the US Vietnam “We have to destroy your homes in order to protect you”. See Children of God “flirty fishing”/f*cking for Jesus. All sound like great ideas, but the effects are all universally horrible and leave future generations scratching their heads as to why ANYONE believed it possible.

        • You’re painting with too broad a brush, Marco.

          Yes, much of Africa is challenge when it comes to Rule of Law. Therefore, protecting elephants with property rights (and subsequent legal hunts) is a challenge.

          But Africa is big and not uniform throughout. Hunting preserves don’t have to be successful everywhere. There are, per Wikipedia, some 700K African elephants. If a few percentage points are kept safe in game preserves, that’s some 20K elephants protected. That should be enough for genetic diversity.

          Should the USA ban the importation of new Ivory? Maybe. Border control of trade is a proper Federal function. But good luck with the Chinese market following suit…

          Intrastate bans on ivory sales like NY and NJ? That’s a problem. There is a large amount of LEGAL ivory in many forms out there. People own it. If control-freak legislators want to ban something that was at one time 100% legal, they can either compensate the owners or go eff-themselves.

        • Except stricter laws lack a profit motive and real repercussions for not protecting the species until they are at their most profitable price level. Historically, government preserve “gaurds” have been easily bribed by poachers because government employees have no profit and loss motivation. Nowadays the gaurds from private game preserves lose their livelihoods if they let poaching happen and the payoff from the cost of the hunt is better than a bribe. Therefore if you are a poacher and you get caught, the gaurds beat the crap out of you and they have an incentive to do so. As another commenter said, this is a tragedy of the commons scenario, when it’s a free for all, and no one privately owns the elephants people harvest them before they are in their prime because getting a smaller fish is better than being too late to the party to get a fish at all. Plus there is no incentive to really liquidate an entire population of elephants for a quick buck since you would get far less than you could get otherwise. If a preserve was going bankrupt from poorly running the business you could probably get more from just selling the herd to another businessman/investor at fire sale prices rather than selling hunts at rock bottom prices.

          See the rain forest as another tragedy of the commons problem. “Better cut down all the trees I can because if I don’t, somebody else will.”

      • I agree. Only way to save the elephants is to make them good business.
        You can make trade illegal but you can’t eliminate demand. Want to make something so profitable that it gets people killing each other for it? Just make it illegal. Works every time. Mob loves prohibition.

    • Actually, the part where your logic is getting skewed is where you think this setup results in the natives’ livelihoods being tied to dead elephants.

      Not so.

      It’s tied to the elephant being alive until someone who will pay lots of money comes by to shoot them.

      The cost/benefit analysis right now is kill the elephants whenever, we don’t really benefit from them, they eat our crops, plus they have lots of meat and we make a pretty penny selling the tusks to some middleman who’ll take his insanely large cut from the profit.

      The cost/benefit analysis with this hunting scheme is sure, we might get some cash killing an elephant now, but that screws us out of getting more cash for some rich great-white-hunter type to shoot it instead, at which point we still get the meat.

  3. Also, re: prohibition: Prohibition doesn’t work when you’re dealing with things like alcohol, drugs, and other things that ARE subject to technological increases and production techniques. Moonshiners moonshined and thus made alcohol prohibition ridiculous, trying to ban a plant so easy to grow it’s nickname is “weed”; where a Kilogram yields 1000 good size “hits” of a drug; where etc. etc.

    Elephants are critically endangered. Elephant farming doesn’t work (tried it). There’s no real way to clandestinely raise elephants, then slaughter them for ivory in an efficient way. Ivory is a rare enough commodity that it NEVER served the function that alcohol, drugs, and other things prohibition has tried to ban.

    You know what’s banned/”prohibited” around the world except in very few cases, and thus a better analogy for Ivory? Highly Enriched Uranium.

    Pakistan got the bomb, India did, and North Korea. Yes, it’s not perfect. But first, does that mean we should resign ourselves to Iran getting it?

    And didn’t the War on Terror, as misguided as it was, demonstrate that getting enriched uranium and clandestine bomb programs are way harder than we thought? And the fact that we’ve been sparring with Iran for the last 10 years over uranium enrichment…

    No. Prohibition NEVER works, despite examples to the contrary.

    • Even after nearly 40 years when white European colonialism ended white people still are trying to tell black people how to run their own lives. Elephants are not special. They need to be killed just like any animal. It is called culling the herd. Either you are a racist who wants to control Africa and or you are totally uneducated about modern wild life animal population control. The legal hunting of African animals is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Why do white people from America want to interfere with the livelihood of black outfitters, hunting guides, hotel workers and anyone else?

      The racist white liberal thinks blacks are not smart enough to understand they should not try and make a good living creating and maintaining wild animals through the same firearms methods and license system used in America. Elephants cause millions of dollars in crop damage just as deer and wild hogs cause similar crop damage in the states.

      In the racist mind of a white socialist black Africans don’t need to benefit from a hunting and outdoor industry like white people do in America.

      Perhaps this stupid self-hating piano player Billy Joel will smash his own fingers for becoming rich playing on ivory pianos and other ivory using musical instruments. How many liberals paid to see him play on an ivory piano? I guess that makes them guilty too.

      • Just so you know, you’re an idiot. You’re not worthy of a greater response. Anyone, conservative or liberal, who resorts to such a non-sequitur ad hominem “racist” attack really has no better argument.

        Tell me: how many elephants are still alive in, say, Tanzania? South Africa? What do you even know about the actual subject beyond your “thass raciss” screeds?

        Bullshit. Go eat a .700 nitro express and die.

        • You need to face your racism honestly to become a better person. White liberals always see welfare as the answer, and the slavery of disarmament. Your racist views on african animal control have never worked. Expecting a different result makes you insane. You need to see a doctor. Get help. Become a better human-being.

        • Abundance Of Elephants Strains South African Game Reserves

          While most of the news about elephants out of Africa concerns poaching and falling numbers, South Africa has the opposite problem. Its elephant populations have grown greater than the country can manage.

          http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=200104722

          You are an uneducated bigoted fool. At least learn about South Africa before you comment on it.

        • Corruption in Tanzania leading to downfall of elephant population

          A new report published by the Environmental Investigation Agency revealed incidents of corruption that involved Chinese criminal gangs smuggling ivory out of Tanzania with the help of corrupt Tanzanian officials.
          http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/corruption-tanzania-leading-downfall-elephant-population/

          You’re one of those rich america communist you understand how communist go to another country and exploit the land and its riches belonging to other people. If there was a profit motive like in other parts of africa then sharing the wealth might have a new meaning. But you are against a profit motive.

  4. Feh. Go look into deep space. See all that empty space? That’s where I keep all the f*cks I give about the elephants. It’s pretty empty.

    I honestly don’t really know why people like those critters so much. Yeah sure, they’re highly intelligent and all. So I don’t really support just hunting them for sport. But neither do I especially care if people do.

      • The hell with that. If we get space craft I’M getting of this mud ball. The Stupid is getting kind of thick here.

  5. A market-based solution that might work would be one that… rewards higher elephant populations! Shocking, I know. And nowhere NEAR as fun as shooting your way to conservation. But money talks. If, say, you identified 100 villages that were within the Elephant’s range, and if elephant numbers show a rebound in, say, 5 years, then some foreign investment for community goods- running water? Generators? Pit toilets? That WILL benefit the community WOULD give them skin in the game.

    Giving poor foreign people money for not screwing up their environment sucks. But it’s a far better solution for those that wish to protect elephants. Not as fun, feel good, “win-win”. But that’s what real life is like sometimes.

    • But the model Robert is describing currently exists (in the form of state run and private game preserves) and it works pretty well, not just in Africa but in North America as well. Also, hunting elephants, legally at least, ain’t cheap (and poaching probably isn’t either).

      Can we get our safari expert Tom in Oregon to chime in on this?

    • You are a racist pig. You and people like you are standing on the necks of black people in Africa and America with your welfare system.

      • Dude seriously stop. You’ve already proved your point that you have no idea how to engage in a proper discussion. I don’t think Marco is on the right track either, but I can also see he’s not a racist. So just drop that. It is lessening the import of ANYTHING you have to say.

  6. The part of this story that I found most shocking is that Billy Joel won six grammies. His music is terrible! It’s not inventive or creative.

    • So do dogs, cats and ferrets.

      Most critters have some emotional capacity. That doesn’t make them human.

      If “mourn their dead” is your criteria = you better just go Vegan. (Oh, by the way, some plants release chemical signals when plants near them are distressed – so maybe you should just not eat).

      • Akshully, I think more study is in order. If we’re going to give chimps more ‘rights’, Oliphaunts have prior claim.

        • And I didn’t claim they’re ‘human’, they’re obviously not. Just that more study is in order.

  7. Making piano keys out of ivory seems like the apex of silliness and if there is, anywhere, a musician that gives a flying flip whether their fretboard dots are ivory something else then I don’t know them. But there’s a lot of musicians I don’t know.

    So elephants. Yeah. Given the third-world location of their habitat it’s not something I can do a lot about. My sole regret is that I didn’t get that pair of blue elephant Luccese boots back in 1988. They were beautiful!

  8. I’m pretty sure Leslie Fish is vehemently pro gun and pro freedom, ref. Black Powder and Alcohol, freedom of the snow, and a slew of her other work. Firestorm is a great album, assuming you like folk songs for folk who ain’t even been yet.

  9. If elephants tasted like Big Macs, they would NEVER become extinct. Just like chickens and cows are in no danger of becoming extinct.

  10. A license to hunt one of the big African trophy animals costs a fortune — tens of thousands of dollars. That supports conservation and the other expenses associated with a hunt provide income for the local people. Convince them that no more elephants will mean no more rich foreign hunters. They will protect elephants and other big game to keep the money train rolling.

    • And rule of law is so good that ONLY elephants that are LEGALLY hunted are the ones dying.

      It’s not like Africa has a problem like the US does with border security, except with elephants.

  11. Here’s my plan for saving the elephants. Many elephants are discovering productive new careers as actors in asthma inhaler commercials. We should make more of them. In order to save many other elephants, I suggest making pianos with only 44 ebony keys, which will make also them easier to play. Last but not least, I can introduce all the bulls to my ex, who will lead them around by the nose. She has practice.

  12. A quick story re: Billy Joel – when I was in Germany in the ’90s (94?) he was touring Europe. He held a free concert for the armed forces in Nuremberg via the USO. Just get there – your ID Card was your admission.

    It was in the Nuremberg stadium (the one you see in all the pre-WW2 footage).

    I’ll never forget that experience. Best USO show ever.

  13. Here’s my 2 cents guys. I was blessed 25 years ago to spend some time in some remote parts of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. At the time, I was against hunting and I did not understand until one conversation with a ranger who admitted that they need rich Americans come and hunt $50k apiece elephants because park rangers had almost no other source of income for poachers and animal control. The sad reality is that, even back then, the eco system was sooooo f%ck*d up that in some area elephants had grown already in too large numbers and were damaging their environment (you have to witness the kind of damage they can do to trees). Long story short, you NEVER kill only one elephant. They are highly social animals. If you only kill one, the entire group becomes upset and starts acting crazy. The sad truth that I was told then, is that they take the $50k from the rich American hunter to pay for the elimination of the rest of the herd with the help of the military (which gets paid). Yes, it means a disgusting massacre with heavy machine guns in a remote area. That’s how it’s done. That is the secret that nobody will ever share because it is so sad and so pathetic and it is an almost unbearable fact to look at with a straight face and the epitome of how f&ck*ed up our world has become!

  14. Hunting puts an actual value on these animals. Hunters have a pretty good record of putting their money where their mouth is. Duck hunters are far more adept at preserving and creating wetlands than anybody else. Ban hunting of migratory waterfowl and what incentive is there to maintain these areas?

    • And that conservation is paid by a tax on EVERY cartridge sold in America. It is paid for by the hunting tags that nearly EVERYONE buys. It is paid for by donations, fundraising, and numerous other sources.

      The difficulty is that in AMERICA, there’s good enforcement to keep free-riders AKA poachers, from taking advantage of the system. Clearly we have a good enough system this works.

      Africa clearly does not have as functional a system, and so free riders who DON’T pay into the system, get a free elephant kill, or at least minus all the taxes they would pay.

      So… if this was about America, then fine. But where 35,000 elephants are killed a year… there’s simply not that many hunting tags issued by a long shot.

  15. The very concept of freedom has disappeared from the planet and is vanishing from the United States, our government has become an entity our Founding Fathers would have condemned without a second thought, and every day there are examples in the news and in our daily lives of why there’s simply no hope for a peaceful, free future.

    Pardon me if I simple can’t find the ability to care about this topic.

  16. South Africa has very few hunting hunting laws imposed on citizens. Non-citizens must be guided by a professional hunter. South Africa has no license requirements or state imposed hunting seasons. You can hunt at night and bait game. Yet the place is over run by elephants. They are actually contemplating sterilizing bull elephants to slow down elephant reproduction. Even NPR agrees there are to many elephants in South Africa. Government interference almost always gets in the way of animal preservation.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=200104722

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