Cures for Cancers

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Did you know that elephants rarely get cancer?  For some time, scientists have been studying the incidence of cancer in various animals and have been baffled by the absence of cancer in African and Asian elephants.  Recently, two independent research efforts have uncovered the reason for this.  In simple terms, most species have a gene, TP53 (known as the “guardian of the genome”), which attacks damaged genes and keeps them from replicating.  Cancer is an example of damaged genes growing, causing tumors and infecting large areas of their host, human or otherwise.  Elephants, as it turns out, have 20 copies of this gene whereas humans have one copy.  Researchers believe that this unusual abundance of TP53 is responsible for the resistance elephants have to cancer.  Now, they are examining ways in which elephant DNA may be introduced into humans to help our species be more resistant to cancer.  For a more detailed description of this research, click here.  (The full scientific report is 028522.full.)

Cancer comes in many forms.  All of us are familiar with its devastating effect. The slaughter of hundreds of thousands of elephants for their ivory is a form of social cancer that has spread across all of Africa and parts of Asia.  This week’s carnage in Paris is symbolic of another virulent social cancer — terrorism — a disease which has destroyed not only lives but also the quality of life for millions of people.

We seem to be at a crossroads in our global society regarding how to value life.  Terrorists, be they criminal networks responsible for wildlife trafficking or radical malcontents responsible for the death and displacement of millions, have one thing in common — they value their own selfish interests over the value of life, human, elephant or otherwise.  The great majority of us want to find solutions, but feel helpless, frustrated and often discouraged.

Put in this context, the solution to elephant poaching is fairly straight forward:  end the demand for ivory trinkets and the terrorists (those who kill animals illegally are indeed terrorists) will go elsewhere to fund their greed and warped agendas.  Killing all the poachers won’t end it; arresting all the existing traffickers won’t end it.  Others will replace them as long as there is a market for it.  So ending this war could be almost bloodless.

The terrorism of ISIL, Al Qaeda and others is less straight forward and will almost necessarily be bloody.  But killing won’t erase the roots of the rise of this terrorism.  We need fundamental changes in economies, tolerance and political policy before we can even begin to combat this terrorism. This will take some time and very wise, brave and open minded leaders — in many countries — before Paris 11/13, US 9/11, and all the other unconscionable acts of terrorism become less and less likely.  Perhaps elephant DNA will find its way into our bloodstream first.  In any event, let us all pray for less violence against all species on this planet we share.

 

 

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.