World Elephant Day 2017

World Elephant Day, August 12, 2017.  This is the fifth World Elephant Day, a global event launched in 2012. This year numerous organizations dedicated to elephants are honoring this day in a range of  ways:  release of new studies, contests, fashion statements and fundraising.

The past five years have been no less than monumental for elephants.  2012 and 2013 were two of the worst years ever for elephant poaching.  Media coverage, NGO activities, celebrity activism, government cooperation and public outcry combined to put pressure on closing down ivory markets in Asia and elsewhere.  As a result, additional resources were put into “the field” to track down and prosecute poachers, China announced it would end the sales of ivory by the end of 2017, world awareness to the plight of elephants was advanced and the demand for ivory actually began to decrease.  Research increased and our understanding of elephant “hotspots” has improved immensely.

The crisis isn’t over and it’s important to keep the pressure on.  That should be our commitment this World Elephant Day.  The pressures on elephant habitat and wildlife-human conflict remain.  Much more must be done in order to ensure that future generations witness wild elephants and appreciate the importance of maintaining balance between all species that rely on earth’s resources.  Keep your commitment and spend some time on the links below that offer information and opportunities to do your part.


ECF 2017 Mid Year Report Partner & Donor Version

Traffic/World Wildlife Fund Report on China’s Ivory Market

Traffic:  Reports on Elephant Ivory

Fundraising and Awareness:

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust “Say Hello in Elephant”

World Wildlife Fund:  Saving Asian Elephants

Wildlife Conservation Society

Every Elephant Counts Contest


The Elephant Pants


The good news, all feel every day is World Elephant Day

Happy World Elephant Day!


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:


Wildlife Conservation Society

 African Wildlife Foundation

World Wildlife Foundation

iworry (The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)

Save the Elephants


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


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.


march of the olympians

If elephants had their own Olympic games, I imagine them being staged in Amboseli (Kenya) under their Mt. Olympus, Kilimanjaro.

I had the privilege of attending the first week of the 2014 (human) Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and was struck by the similarity between media coverage of the Olympics and that of the elephant.  On one hand, the themes of corruption, terrorism, environmental impact and international tension dominated media coverage, particularly leading up to the opening ceremony.  Once the games began, however, the stories of courage, strength, commitment and resolve took center stage as these amazing athletes competed in the rinks and on the slopes. Heroes and heroines all, the athletes inspire people around the world to strive to reach their personal best. As incredible as the talent these people possess is, their stories impress me even more.

Meanwhile, on a different international stage, calls for a UN Special Representative dedicated stopping wildlife crime and a proposal to ban the trade in elephant ivory within the United States showcased heroic efforts of a different kind.

The London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade (February 12-13) committed to taking “decisive and urgent action” to stop the illegal trade of all wildlife. Heather Sohl, Chief Species Advisor at WWF-UK, said:

“Governments signing the London Declaration today sent a strong message: Wildlife crime is a serious crime and it must be stopped. This trafficking devastates species populations, but also takes the lives of rangers, impedes countries’ economic development and destabilises society by driving corruption. This is a crisis, not just at a national or regional scale, but one that demands urgent global attention, and so warrants high-level political support through the appointment of a dedicated United Nations Special Representative. It is down to governments to stand by their commitments now and put in place procedures and resources to tackle the crime back in their homelands.”

At the same time, following President Obama’s proposed National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, the U.S. Department of Interior announced a ban on commercial trade of ivory.  The details of this (near complete) ban on ivory trade include:

  • Prohibit Commercial Import of African Elephant Ivory: All commercial imports of African elephant ivory, including antiques, will be prohibited.
  • Prohibit Commercial Export of Elephant Ivory: All commercial exports will be prohibited, except for bona fide antiques, certain noncommercial items, and in exceptional circumstances permitted under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Significantly Restrict Domestic Resale of Elephant Ivory: We will finalize a proposed rule that will reaffirm and clarify that sales across state lines are prohibited, except for bona fide antiques, and will prohibit sales within a state unless the seller can demonstrate an item was lawfully imported prior to 1990 for African elephants and 1975 for Asian elephants, or under an exemption document.
  • Clarify the Definition of “Antique”: To qualify as an antique, an item must be more than 100 years old and meet other requirements under the Endangered Species Act. The onus will now fall on the importer, exporter, or seller to demonstrate that an item meets these criteria.
  • Restore Endangered Species Act Protection for African Elephants: We will revoke a previous Fish and Wildlife Service special rule that had relaxed Endangered Species Act restrictions on African elephant ivory trade.
  • Support Limited Sport-hunting of African Elephants: We will limit the number of African elephant sport-hunted trophies that an individual can import to two per hunter per year.

    Together, these efforts are Olympic-sized in their ambition and international scope. Right now, we have more words than demonstrated action. The difficult part remains ahead of us. Nevertheless, this is more than we had before the Olympic Games began just two weeks ago. One thing we can all do immediately is urge everyone we know not to buy ivory — and to spread the word.  As one organizer of the London Conference concluded:  “Key to supporting those efforts are the agreed actions targeting the consumer end of the supply chain, where reducing the demand for wildlife products is an essential part of the process,”

The Soul of Giving


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.

Making Sense Out of the Senseless


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


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:

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:

Buenos Aires
Cape Town
Los Angeles
New York City
Washington DC

Reaching Our Goals


Maasai Mara, February 2013:  Located in southwest Kenya, the Maasai Mara boasts vast acacia-dotted grasslands and riverine forests that support world-famous concentrations of animals. Sometimes you are surrounded by animals as far as the eye can see.  Other times, you may feel totally alone in this vast landscape. . .until one animal appears on the horizon.

In the case of the photo above, that one lone animal was this male tusker.  He was our only sighting that hour so we sat contentedly, watching him rapidly approach, seemingly uninterested in the surrounding, high grasses.  He had a goal — the lone acacia tree near our parked vehicle.  Elephants balance their nutritional intake with soft grasses (for easy digestion) and tree bark and branch (for fiber).  A more determined elephant I have never seen as this umbrella acacia was not particularly elephant-friendly. Most giraffes would have passed it by. But with persistence, he was successful, devoting the better part of the afternoon to enjoying his meal (and delighting us with his stretches).

Bangkok, March 2013:  Reaching its goal (promoted on my January 15 blog entry “Call to Action“), the WWF  presented Thailand’s prime minister with a petition signed by 500,000 people calling for the end of that country’s legal ivory trade market (click here). In her opening remarks to the CITES conference, the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, promised to amend the kingdom’s laws, which critics say include loopholes that have allowed smugglers to ferry African tusks to Thai markets and onward, often to China, the world’s top destination for illegal ivory.  Thailand is believed to be the second-biggest market for illicit elephant tusks.

We all know about promises made by politicians; they are not exactly reliable.  And Thailand has made previous pledges to bring its laws into accordance with global standards.  Nevertheless, the efforts of WWF and other conservation groups involved in forcing the issue should be applauded for reaching their goal. The hard work is ahead, in Thailand and in other nations that need to take action to end illegal trade in ivory.  Let’s make it our goal to help that process along, stretching our reach to its very limits.

Call to Action

sos ele levels3

Last week’s elephant poaching tragedy in Tsavo has received widespread global media coverage.  In response, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has announced the establishment of a commission to explore ways in which the various government agencies in Kenya could collaborate to strengthen their efforts. He said that security agencies “must treat the emerging poaching threat as part of the insecurity griping the country and not a wildlife issue to be addressed solely by the Kenya Wildlife Service.” (emerging poaching threat?)  In addition, he has called upon the international community to help curb the illegal ivory trade by increasing policing and prosecution efforts.

Meanwhile, much of the international community is awaiting the CITES meeting in Bangkok  March 3 – 14, 2013 to see “what happens” or what plan will be adopted. (Thailand has the world’s largest unregulated ivory market.)

Commissions and meetings are by their very nature slow and lumbering, rarely igniting immediate and effective action.  But time is running out. For Africa at-large, the elephant body count in 2012 is greater than it was in 2011.  Experts predict at this rate wild elephants in Africa could be extinct in 15 years.  The poaching rate in Central Africa may well eliminate all wild elephants in that region even sooner.

Here is something you can do right now that will help.  Join the World Wildlife Fund‘s movement to call upon Thailand to ban ivory trade. While the world is watching during the CITES meeting, WWF wants to present 1 million signatures to Prime Minister Shinawatra, asking her to do the right thing in her own backyard. Thailand permits the sale of items made from indigenous ivory. Because the market is unregulated, much of the poached ivory from Africa finds its way to Bangkok and is sold in markets there as “Thai” ivory. Drawing attention to this may be the most compelling and effective near term consequence of the CITES meeting.  Be a part of that action!