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By Joel Connelly
15 September 2015

(Seattle PI) – Poaching and slaughter of wild creatures, from Africa’s great elephants to manta rays in the Pacific Ocean, has become the Earth’s fourth-largest illegal criminal activity, creating what conservationists call an “extinction economy.”

As one watches the new film, Racing Extinction, by Academy Award-winning documentary maker Louie Psihoyos, feelings alternate between outrage and borderline hopelessness.  As Psihoyos goes undercover to film thousands of shark fins drying on the roof of a Chinese market, or records the killings of manta rays, the extinction economy seems brutally unstoppable.

Yet, resistance must start somewhere to go viral — and Washington is such a place in this fall’s election.

Fueled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Initiative 1401 would make unlawful and slap penalties on selling, purchasing, trading, bartering or distributing products of “covered animal species.”

The wild creatures listed include “any species of elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, pangolin, marine turtle, shark or ray.”

The National Rifle Association blocked legislation in Olympia.  So, as with gun background checks, supporters of species protection have taken their cause directly to the state’s voters.

A Monday night showing of Racing Extinction at the Allen-owned Cinerama kicked off the campaign.  Accurately put, it was a kick in the gut.  Undercover film from Hong Kong and China showed the unsustainable extent of the slaughter.

What’s our role?  The United States is (after China) the world’s second-largest market for endangered wildlife.  The Seattle and Tacoma ports are among the largest container terminals in the nation. […]

The sobering words Monday night came from University of Washington researcher Dr. Sam Wasser, whose specialty is identifying “hot spots” for elephant poaching.

“We are losing 50,000 elephants a year,” said Wasser.  “There are only 470,000 left.” [more]

The ‘extinction economy': Will Washington voters strike a blow against slaughter of the world’s wild creatures?

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