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Director's Corner

Meet Service Director Dan Ashe.

ā€˜Eā€™ is for Elephant, Not Extinction

dog team
Dog Ruger and some of the team. Photo by Michelle Gadd/USFWS

As our children learn to read, we teach them that “E is for elephant.”

It’s hard to believe that one of the world’s most well-known and beloved animals, a staple of children’s alphabet books and stories, is fighting for its very existence. But these magnificent creatures are, and there is no better time than today – World Elephant Day – to remember African and Asian elephants and continue our hard work to help both of these species that are threatened with extinction. 

In Africa, poaching for ivory poses the biggest threat to elephants. We lost 95 percent of elephants there during the 20th century, and now we risk losing the remaining 5 percent.  The thriving illegal trade in ivory makes every elephant a target for ruthless, well-armed criminal organizations that are driven by greed. 

We have raised awareness here at home about the plight of the elephants with our two Ivory Crushes. We also support on-the-ground conservation in countries across Africa through our African Elephant Conservation Fund, including efforts with the South Luangwa Conservation Society to launch a wildlife detector dog program in Zambia. 

Three teams of dogs and handlers are at work and Zambia is already seeing results! (Related: We have detector dogs in the United States |  Read about detection dogs in Kenya.) 


Working to Protect African Lions

The African lion is one of the world’s most beloved species – as the celebration of World Lion Day today attests. Unfortunately, ensuring that healthy, wild lion populations continue to roam Africa’s savannas has become increasingly challenging.

Lions in Maasai Mara, Kenya. Photo by Heidi Ruffler | See more photos

The death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe has drawn international attention to the species’ plight. But while poaching, illegal and poorly managed hunting are a concern, the most common causes of wild lion mortality – conflicts with local communities and habitat loss – are vitally important to address.


Throwing Open the Doors to Nature

Teaching archery at the Sigma Conclave. Photo courtesy by Phi Beta Sigma

I spent countless hours as a kid exploring national wildlife refuges with my three brothers while my dad worked. Those incredible opportunities left me determined to pursue a career in wildlife conservation – and fostered a lifelong love of the outdoors that I’ve passed on to my children.

More than four decades later, I’m in my dream job leading the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I doubt I’d be where I am if I hadn’t had those experiences as a kid.

But it’s troubling that some children don’t have access to the same types of experiences.

Dan Ashe
Dan Ashe welcomes Phi Beta Sigma members. Photo by USFWS

That’s why I am so proud of our work with Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., to bring nature to young men of color.

The Service was a headlining sponsor of the Sigma’s “Conclave 2015: I Am My Brother’s Keeper,” and we worked hard at the Conclave to share the Service story with a sometimes-unfamiliar audience. I can tell you that we got as much out of this experience as we gave.

We’ve partnered with historically African American organizations Sigma and its sister organization Zeta Phi Beta Sorority in an effort to expand our engagement with African American families and children.

Studies show that kids who spend time in nature are healthier and happier, and have fewer issues in school.


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