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What makes a State Wildlife Agency tick?

What makes a State Wildlife Agency tick?
submitted by David L. Autry

Decades ago, State Wildlife Agencies were driven by well meaning and devoted people who had the best interest of the state's wildlife and resources at heart, people who truly wanted to restore our wildlife to the point where it could be enjoyed by all and yet not be a burden on the land owners of this state. What is the driving force behind State Wildlife Agencies today? What motivates our State Wildlife Agencies?

It was brought to my attention that a Tuberculosis (TB) infected elephant was allowed to be imported into TN. When I first heard about this, I have to admit that even I did not believe our State Wildlife Agency would allow such a thing to happen because there appears to be no gain, no reason to allow such a thing to happen. As time passed on and after three or four individuals had made mention of this diseased elephant entering TN, I started to research this situation.

Why would our State Wildlife Agency allow a diseased animal to be imported into TN? What motive could there possibly be? At least with the recent failed elk importation attempt from Elk Island National Park (EINP) in Canada, the motive was very clear from the start. The State Wildlife Agency stood to make millions and millions of dollars through their elk lottery scheme with these unsafe and risky elk that did not meet State or Federal laws for safe importation in regard to disease issues. If the Federal Government had not stepped in two days before our State Wildlife Agency were to begin transporting these unsafe elk to TN, TN's wildlife and livestock would have been put at risk for TB and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and maybe other diseases as well. Even after the Federal Government stopped our State Wildlife Agency from importing these unsafe elk, our State Wildlife Agency refused to accept the facts that the EINP elk did not qualify for safe importation into the U.S. The State Wildlife Agency insisted that since they had already spent in excess of $100,000.00 in trapping and getting these elk ready to transport to TN, they should be allowed to enter the U.S. but the Federal Government held firm and refused to allow these unsafe elk to enter the U.S.

Elephants are one of the few captive animals that our State Wildlife Agency still regulates and has jurisdiction over so when this diseased elephant was allowed to be imported into TN, our State Wildlife Agency would have had to approve of the importation. At this point, I do not have the information as to who in our State Wildlife Agency approved of this reckless action but I would think that Mr. Walter Cook would have all of the details about this importation.

Not knowing the reason that this diseased elephant was allowed to be imported, I had hoped at least they had made provisions to keep the animal quarantined but as the research progressed, I learned that was not the case. Sometime after Katrina had devastated the southern coast, another elephant from a zoo was in need of a new home. This zoo animal was transported to TN to the same facility that was housing the TB infected elephant and since that time, the two elephants have been filmed together.

After several phone conversations and after personally speaking with a few people, I was told by a state employee, who will remain nameless, that the elephant had indeed been allowed to be imported and that it was known prior to the importation that the elephant had been diagnosed with TB. This is the same strain of TB that humans can become infected with. It is also a threat to TN's wildlife and livestock. When this elephant was allowed to be imported into TN, it put a neighboring cattle herd at risk for the disease not to mention the people and animals that it may have come in contact with while traveling here from Illinois.

Even after learning some of the details of this diseased elephant entering TN, I still had a hard time believing that our State Wildlife Agency would allow such a thing to happen especially when there appears to be no gain, no purpose, no reasonable explanation.

As the research progressed, I learned that the TB infected elephant was a circus elephant. I also learned that almost two million dollars had been raised to provide a home for this elephant and now it was starting to make sense. While I believe that this retired circus elephant deserves to be properly cared for in a stress free environment, a place where the animal can enjoy the time that he or she has left, it should have been done without risking TN's wildlife and livestock. The animal should have been placed in a facility that would not have jeopardized healthy animals. Once the animal was diagnosed with TB, it should not have been allowed to travel hundreds of miles to another area only to subject more healthy animals and more people to this disease.

Our State Wildlife Agencies and Conservation Groups are playing fast and loose with the health of the State's wildlife and livestock and for what? Is money the only driving force behind our State Wildlife Agencies and Conservation Groups today?

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