The Beginning of the End

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Sunrise or sunset?  Beginning or end?  As one year comes to a close and another opens, it is natural to assess where we are and where we are going.

For the elephants, the end of 2016 comes with an announcement by China that it will close its ivory market in 2017. Here is the partial post from WildAid’s website:

The end of the world’s largest ivory market was announced today by the Chinese government as it released a detailed timetable for ending its legal ivory trade. Domestic ivory sales will be banned by the end of 2017 with the first batch of factories and traders to close their business by 31 March 2017.

Last year, President Xi Jinping made a public commitment to phasing-out the ivory trade, which may be falling out of favor with Chinese consumers. A recent survey by the conservation group Save the Elephants reported that ivory prices in eight mainland Chinese cities had fallen by half in a two-year period ending December 2015. Anecdotal evidence gathered by WildAid campaigners in China indicates prices may have decreased further this year: Market inquiries in May 2016 found raw ivory prices of around $450 to $900, representing a decrease of 57% to 78% compared with a2014 high of $2,100 per kilogram in mainland China. A ban was first proposed to the National People’s Congress by former NBA star, Yao Ming, who also led documentaries on ivory trade for state broadcaster CCTV in partnership with WildAid.

WildAid CEO Peter Knights said, “China’s exit from the ivory trade is the greatest single step that could be taken to reduce poaching for elephants. We thank President Xi for his leadership and congratulate the State Forestry Administration for this timely plan. We will continue to support their efforts through education and persuading consumers not to buy ivory.”

With China’s announcement, international attention is now shifting to Japan, which voted against all CITES proposals to protect elephants and has insisted its trade is not tainted by illegal ivory. However, a recent report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found that the nation’s elephant tusk registration system widely allows for poached tusks smuggled from Africa to be sold legally in the domestic market.

While this won’t stop poaching overnight, it is the most significant step in dampening the global market for ivory to date.  We can only hope that the other Asian governments with significant ivory markets will follow suit.

2016 has been a landmark year for recognition of the devastating impact the demand for ivory has had on elephant populations.  Prior to the announcement by China that it would be closing its markets for ivory, the US adopted regulations to do the same in the US.  The first-ever, methodical, continent-wide count of elephants was completed, and  the results of The Great Elephant Census were announced at the end of August.  Confirming our worst suspicions, elephant populations had plummeted to approximately 350,000 in Africa, down 30% from 2007.  At the beginning of 1900, there were roughly 10 million elephants in Africa.

2017 could, therefore, be the watershed year for the African elephants.  On one hand, China’s move could inspire other countries to follow suit and we could truly see the evaporation of demand for ivory.  Conversely, the black market could be sufficiently established that the situation worsens, in that continued, illegal demand for ivory forces the prices even higher.  The former would reduce poaching; the latter, would accelerate the elimination of elephants from the African ecosystem.

Never has it been more important to advocate the end of ivory markets.  Any chance of having elephants in the wild for the next generation count on it.

As you make your New Year’s resolutions, please add supporting the end to any legal trade in elephant ivory to your list!

Happy New Years from Elephants Forever!

Join the Herd on World Wildlife Day

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Tomorrow, March 3, is World Wildlife Day. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013, the purpose of World Wildlife Day is to build awareness of and develop solutions to threats to wildlife at the local and global levels. This year, the theme is: “The future of wildlife is in our hands.” African and Asian elephants will be a main focus of the Day under the theme “The future of elephants is in our hands.”

Awareness of the plight of the elephant is much higher today than a year ago.  But the poaching crisis continues.  Check this site tomorrow to see who the winners are in the International Elephant Film Festival.  Also, WildAid has declared 2016 “The Year of the Elephant” to continue the increase in awareness with the hope that 2016 will be the first year in a while that more elephants are born than killed, a key goal in stopping the path to extinction.  Join the Herd is a communications effort sponsored by WildAid  toward that goal. Do your part by joining the herd (it’s free and fun) and by supporting those organizations that are making a true difference.

And remember, all this will work only if we make every day about holding the future of elephants in our hands.

 

Happy World Elephant Day!

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What have you done for the elephants today?

There is still time to act, if not today, then tomorrow or the next.  But don’t put it off for too long.  Your voice is needed now to continue the momentum that is building around the world.

Sign a petition sponsored by the groups listed below, write your legislators, join a cause, donate to one of the organizations listed to the right under “Bookmarks.”

Go to the following sites and make your voice heard:

WildAid

Wildlife Conservation Society

 African Wildlife Foundation

World Wildlife Foundation

iworry (The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)

Save the Elephants

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U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance

If we all act, and continue to support the work these organizations are doing, we will always have live elephants to celebrate! Otherwise, in ten years World Elephant Day may be an unhappy occasion to mourn extinction, something none of us want.

If you still need convincing, go to “In the News” for the latest on how serious the situation is and actions governments, NGOs and the private sector are taking.

 

Ivory’s Curse

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An abundant endowment of high-value wildlife can be a resource curse that ultimately leaves human societies worse off. The damage being done to African elephants from poaching is very real, but so is the damage being done to African societies.”

So begins a new report entitled  “Ivory’s Curse:  The Militarization and Professionalization of Poaching in Africa” prepared by C4ADS, a not-for-profit firm that evaluates global conflict and security issues and sponsored by Born Free USA.  Chronicling the poaching dynamic in eight African countries, the report demonstrates:

• In Sudan, government-allied militias complicit in the Darfur genocide fund their operations by poaching elephants hundreds of miles outside North Sudan’s borders.

• In the Democratic Republic of Congo, state security forces patronize the very rebels they are supposed to fight, providing weapons and support in exchange for ivory.

Zimbabwean political elites, including those under international sanction, are seizing wildlife spaces that either are, or likely will soon be, used as covers for poaching operations.

• In East Africa, al-Shabaab and Somali criminal networks are profiting off Kenyan elephants killed by poachers using weapons leaked from local security forces.

Mozambican organized crime has militarized and consolidated to the extent it is willing to battle the South African army and well-trained ranger forces for rhino horn.

• In Gabon and the Republic of Congo, ill-regulated forest exploitation is bringing East Asian migrant laborers, and East Asian organized crime, into contact with Central Africa’s last elephants.

• In Tanzania, political elites have aided the industrial-scale depletion of East Africa’s largest elephant population.

In its concluding section, the report states:  “Targeting trafficking profits and intercepting containers to disrupt criminal demand and drive up organized crime costs is a necessary stopgap until end-user demand for ivory can be reduced.” Yes, this should be done but it will take time, unprecedented international cooperation and financing.  The fact remains as long as there is a market for ivory, there will be poaching.  And as long as that is the case, the fabric of many African societies and the well-being of many Africans will be jeopardized. The elephant has long been an unofficial logo of Africa.  One may argue that as goes the fate of the elephant, so goes the fate of Africa.

Never has it been so important to use every communication and legal tactic to convince people not to buy ivory.  Please increase your outreach efforts.  World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) both have advocacy programs underway; click on their red initials and join their efforts now.  Do it for the elephants; do it for the millions of Africans who are suffering or will suffer from the violence and economic disruption this crisis presents.

Join the Elephant Lobby

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On February 11, 2014, President Obama announced he would take administrative action to ban the commercial trade of elephant ivory in the United States.  In addition, he outlined a national strategy to more effectively combat overall wildlife trafficking. (For complete details, click here.)

Now for the difficult part — making it happen.  Why is it difficult if the President has the authority to accomplish this through the power he already possesses?  Because in our democracy everyone has a right to participate in how such action is actually implemented.  As they say, the devil is in the details.  Since his announcement, a number of special interests have descended upon Washington with all sorts of reasons why banning trade in elephant ivory is bad for America.

One of the loudest protests has come from the Safari Club International (SCI), an organization representing the interests of trophy hunters.  Sport hunting of elephant is allowed in Zimbabwe and Tanzania.  Recognizing the importance of revenue generated from hunting in those countries, the Administration proposes to “limit the number of African elephant sport-hunted trophies that an individual can import to two per hunter per year.”  However, in a press release, the SCI states:  “It is unknown precisely when the decision by the U.S. FWS will occur, but SCI will do everything in its power to fight this reckless decision that has no basis in law, science, or conservation policy.”

Over the years, the SCI and its members have contributed significantly to conservation causes, but this stance is selfish and short-sighted.

Along with the NRA (another opponent to the President’s proposal), the SCI has some powerful resources at its disposal.  The elephants need us to rise to the occasion and let the administration know that the majority of us think the proposed ban is a good idea.

Here is what you can do.  Beginning tomorrow, a new website, www.elephantsusa.org/, goes live. Created by a group of concerned citizens, Sign for Elephants, the purpose is to collect 100,000 signatures on an online petition to ban the commercial trade in ivory in the US.  Based on the First Amendment of our Constitution, our government is required to respond to any petition having a minimum of 100,000 signatures. Using the White House sponsored website, “We the People,” you can register and sign any petition that has been posted on this site.  On May 1, Sign for Elephants will be available for signing.

Click here to begin the process to sign the petition and join the Elephant Lobby.

The Soul of Giving

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It’s “Giving Tuesday.”  Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we return to the spirit of the season, giving thanks, celebrating that which nourishes our souls and opening our hearts and wallets for those we love as well as those who need our help.

As you make your gift lists, remember the elephants and the wonderful organizations who are truly making a difference on their behalf.  Check “Experts” for a list of those organizations.

If elephants had credit cards and access to the Internet, they too would probably partake in holiday gift giving.  Elephants possess an innate feeling for each other, well-documented, cradle-to-grave behavior  —  from the care of a newborn to the mourning of a  lost one.

Earlier this year, The New Atlantis, a journal of technology and society, published an article,  “Do Elephants Have Souls?”.  While lengthy and scholarly, the article contains a wealth of information on elephant behavior, from fact to “elephantasies.”    Or, if you find that article too dense to finish, read this link about the tribute elephants paid to conservationist Lawrence Anthony when he died Spring 2012.  This story will make you believe!  It is worth considering what is it about the elephant that has so drawn humans to it, from the dawn of civilization.

We are concluding another dreadful year for elephant populations and, some might say, elephant souls.  Please take some time to appreciate what special creatures elephants are and pledge some of your giving to their future.

A Crushing Experience

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Watching — and listening to — a full-grown, adult elephant walk by is an incredible experience.  At five to six tons, an elephant makes almost no noise when strolling across open territory — a remarkable feat when you consider the crushing weight each step places upon whatever is underfoot. The elephant´s foot is formed in such a way that it is essentially walking on tiptoe, with a tough and fatty part of connective tissue for the sole. This spongy “shock absorber” helps an elephant to move silently.

It may also surprise you to know that the United States remains an enormous market for illegal elephant ivory.  The U.S. is second only to China in terms of the market for illegal wildlife products, such as rhino horn, tiger bone and ivory.  Later this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) plans to destroy its stockpile of ivory — six tons of ivory objects seized upon entry into the U.S. since the late 1980s when ivory trade was banned. Blaming increased demand for a devastating rise in poaching, largely by organized crime syndicates, the Administration wants to send a message of zero tolerance and reduce the appeal of illicit animal products.  (Click here for full story.)

Working with conservation organizations, the USFWS plans to crush the ivory, then use it to build memorials around the country against poaching. (Hopefully, they will mix the ivory with other materials like concrete so that the memorials aren’t prone to theft).  I am anxious to know more about the plans for such memorials as many Americans remain complacent about ivory and the plight of the elephants.  Too often, we are under the impression that this is a problem in Africa and Asia, but not here in the U.S.  Let this be a wake-up call that our markets are part of the problem, and inspire us to help crush the demand for ivory and the poaching that feeds that demand.

 

 

International March for Elephants — New York

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Here are some scenes from the International March for Elephants in New York on Friday, October 4.  Many elephant “champions” participated in the walk, which began on the West Side at 12th Avenue and 42nd Street and ended on the East Side at 47th and 1st, in front of the UN.  “Celebrity” participants included Iain Douglas-Hamilton (Save the Elephants), Paula Kahambu (WildlifeDirect), Cyril Christo (photographer, poet, author of  “Walking Thunder”), Bryan Christy (journalist), Christie Brinkley (model, animal activist) and Kristin Davis (actress, spokesperson) — to name a few!  Congratulations to the organizers, led by Joey Cummings, and the many volunteers who worked so hard to make this spectacular show of support for elephants possible. And, thanks to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for organizing the first global demonstration on behalf of an animal.  Walks took place in up to 40  cities around the world.  The level of “noise” is definitely on the increase!

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Making Sense Out of the Senseless

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The news from Nairobi is devastating.  A senseless act of terror that killed and injured so many innocent people.  The violence transcends the immediate horror of death and destruction.  It will linger in the atmosphere indefinitely,  robbing Kenyans and visitors of their sense of security, disrupting daily routines in an already chaotic city and threatening an economy heavily dependent upon tourism and foreign investment. 

In the aftermath, some media have linked the illegal ivory trade to funding of Al Shabaab, the terrorist group responsible for this tragedy.  The Elephant Action League says that the terror group’s trafficking of ivory through Kenya “could be supplying up to 40% of the funds needed to keep them in business” (click here for story).

Today, an unprecedented coalition committed $80 million in combating the illegal ivory trade and slaughter of Africa’s elephants.   An alliance of conservation groups and African nations was announced at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) summit in New York. The group includes WCS, Conservation International, the World Wildlife Fund, the African Wildlife Foundation, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Together they will work towards solutions to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand.

Not only will the CGI commitment aim to stop the violence against wildlife, but the security threat that comes with the high-priced criminal activity. Funds will be used to support African governments – including Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, South Sudan, Malawi, and Uganda – as they hire more park guards, toughen penalties for poachers, and strengthen intelligence networks (click here for details).

You can be part of this growing cry to stop poaching and halt the illegal ivory trade and the senseless crime it funds.  Join the Wildlife Conservation Society’s new movement, 96 Elephants (the number of elephants killed each day), urging President Obama to stop the senseless slaughter of elephants by clicking here.  Consider supporting any of the organizations participating in the CGI initiative or those listed in Experts.  Walk in the March for Elephants on October 4.  Stay informed by following the news posted on In the News.  And don’t buy ivory!  Becoming part of this growing global movement is one of the most effective things we can do to not only to stop the senseless killing of  elephants, but also to reduce revenues to groups that perpetrate senseless acts of terrorism.

Elephant Walk

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Back from a glorious trip and eager to share images and information on my elephant encounters, particularly those with the elusive forest elephant in the Congo.  But first, I wanted to get this important date on your calendar.

On Friday, October 4, the International March for Elephants will take place in 15 cities around the world.  The march is sponsored by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a wonderful organization that I have often mentioned on this blog.  All continents, save Antarctica, are represented, an exciting, global display of concern about the elephants.

Kenyan Jim Justus Nyamu has already walked 1500 miles in Kenya educating communities on the irreversible damage associated with killing elephants for their ivory.  Jim is taking his message to the US by walking from Boston to Washington, DC, where he will take place in the Capitol City’s march on October 4th.  Those of you who live in the northeast corridor can join him between now and then if you have some time on your hands.  Follow his route on: http://www.ivorybelongstoelephantswalk.com/

For more inspiration, please watch the WWF’s latest video in their “Stop Wildlife Crime” series on elephant poaching by clicking here.

I plan to march in the New York City event.  For details, click on the city nearest you below or go to:  http://www.iworry.org/

Arusha
Bangkok
Buenos Aires
Cape Town
Edinburgh
London
Los Angeles
Melbourne
Munich
Nairobi
New York City
Rome
Toronto
Washington DC
Wellington