OUR OPINION: Protected species have rough time

By NEMS Daily Journal

The senseless and foolish drive-by shooting of a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus Asian elephant outside the BancorpSouth Arena early Tuesday morning stains Tupelo’s civic reputation worldwide – and continues a disturbing incidence of attacks on protected and endangered species in Mississippi.
The 39-year-old elephant, named Carol, is expected to recover and is being transferred to its home base, Springfield, Mo., for recuperation.
The wounding of the elephant follows at least five other shootings of endangered and/or protected species in Mississippi within the past two years, including two killings of bald eagles in Northeast Mississippi.
The bald eagle, America’s national symbol since 1782, is federally protected. Conviction of killing one carries a possible fine of up to $100,000 and extended jail time.
Eagles have been killed in Union and Itawamba counties and also in Neshoba, Stone and George counties.
In early 2012, a black bear was killed in Amite County, one of a species struggling to re-establish itself in Mississippi through state and federal efforts.
The killings are against the law and they’re mindless. Bears and eagles, plus other raptors, have been part of the North American ecosystem for untold thousands of years. Their loss creates consequences in nature; their protection is necessary.
The Asian elephant, the species of elephant shot in Tupelo, is similarly protected under international and national laws, part of a worldwide conservation effort.
Set aside the extended debate about the humaneness of circuses; the issue first is identifying and prosecuting criminals.
A reward of $23,750 has so far been offered from several sources for the identification and successful prosecution of the attackers.
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is offering up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is offering $5,000; PETA is offering up to $5,000 and CrimeStoppers of Northeast Mississippi is offering up to $1,000. Former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers of Booneville is offering $250, AND The Performing Animal Welfare Society offers $2,500. That brings the total reward offered to $23,750. Tips can be made anonymously at 1-800-773-8477.
Anyone with information concerning American bald eagles or other endangered species attacks should contact the USFWS’s Grenada Office of Law Enforcement at (662) 227-0990, USFWS’s Jackson Office of Law Enforcement at (601) 965-4699, or MDWFP Law Enforcement Bureau at (601) 432-2074.
One way to undo damage from negative publicity is to solve the crimes and punish offenders.