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Director's Corner

Meet Service Director Dan Ashe.

Keeping Rhinos Alive by Watching What Antiques You Buy

Black rhinoRhinos have been decimated by poaching. Credit: USFWS

 People don’t often think about it, but even sales of antiques made from endangered plants or animals can hurt the survival of those species.  Antiques can raise demand for similar products, which really just feeds the destruction of those animals.

A global black market hungers for rhino horn – an NBC report last year estimated the value of rhino horns at $25,000 a pound. They are used in Asian medicines on the misguided notion that they cure diseases, even cancer … of course, no scientific evidence supports that they really do any of that. Rhino horns are made of keratin, the same stuff that makes up hair and fingernails. They are also a sought-after carving material for ceremonial dagger handles and libation cups.

Poaching numbers for rhino jump every day, it seems. Wildlife authorities reported a rhino “death toll” of 668 for South Africa alone in 2012, a level of illegal take that translates roughly into a rhino being killed every 12 or so hours. This year, it’s even worse. As of April 3, 203 rhinos have already been poached in South Africa in 2013.

That is why I taped a segment on Antiques Roadshow talking about the rhino crisis. You can watch it online. You can also see a bonus interview I did.

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Through Forests and Airports: A Window into My Life

Last week was busy.

Monday it was President’s Day, a national holiday.  I left home at 2pm, for Dulles airport and a flight to Medford, Oregon.

On Tuesday, I joined Secretary Salazar in Medford to visit a BLM ecological forestry pilot project.  We saw first-hand how FWS, NMFS, BLM and USFS are working together to define a new generation of forest management, generating timber and jobs, but leaving a healthy forest.  The project has great potential to create a forest that is less susceptible to disease and wildfire, and better able to provide habitat for species like the northern spotted owl.

FWS work on the owl recovery plan and critical habitat are supporting movement in this direction, and I was proud to see our people standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their counterparts in BLM and USFS.  They are working toward a new future in the northwest forests.  A future that is not defined by conflict and litigation, but by cooperation and progress toward a vision of healthy forests and sustainable economies and ecology.

After the productive experience in Medford, things became a bit hectic. 

To give you a window into my life, I was scheduled to leave Tuesday afternoon, and head to Alaska for a visit to Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.  But, Tuesday morning, I was informed that I needed to head, instead, for Los Angeles for a Thursday morning press conference on Rhinoceros.  So, Tuesday afternoon, I flew to Seattle to connect with a flight headed down to LA.  My wife had worked with my office to arrange for a suit, tie, shoes, socks and belt to meet me there, as I hadn’t planned to need them in Alaska.

But alas, when I landed in Seattle, I had several voice messages notifying that the Los Angeles press conference was off, and I should head to Alaska.  While at the airline desk trying to recover my reservation to Anchorage, I got a call from Alaska Regional Director Geoff Haskett. My flight to Cold Bay had been canceled, and now all the flights were full.

At that point, even if I got to Anchorage, I wouldn’t be able to get to the refuge.  So, I changed plans again, spent a wonderful evening in the Seattle-Tacoma airport, and caught a red-eye back to Dulles.

Welcome to my world.

Needless to say I made it back to DC in one piece. All’s well that ends well.

-Dan?