Dear Friends of Wildlife

Trust me; 9,000 words is a huge article but somehow even the efforts of one of our greatest wordsmiths, Alex Shoumatoff, writing in Vanity Fair, could not entirely capture the enormity of the plight faced by elephants across Africa and Asia ……. but he did a damn fine job, supported by a wonderful portfolio of both heart-warming and distressing images taken by acclaimed photographer, Guillaume Bonn. This landmark article not only explores the reality of elephant life – their complex and social make-up, their communities, their families – but follows the bloody trail of ivory from the plains and forests of Africa through the heaving markets of the Near East to the rapacious retail outlets of China.

And China features heavily not only because that is where demand for ivory is being driven from but because, as Chinese nationals numbering more than a million expand their footprint across the African continent, building roads, mining, and carrying out timber extraction etc., so it would appear that Chinese nationals are behind the poaching and associated corruption that comes with it, according to Alex.

Here’s a link to the article, a short film and a photo-gallery …….. judge for yourself.

What is to be done?

From Born Free’s perspective we are supporting law enforcement in a number of Central and West African countries helping bring poachers to book, making sure the laws which protect elephants on paper, protect elephants in reality. We are supporting the conservation work of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, and others and we are exposing the true scale of its trade to the more than 170 countries that have signed up to the CITES Treaty (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) which is supposed to protect wildlife from unsustainable trade (www.bloodyivory.org). And make no mistake, it is an unsustainable trade – an estimated 35,000 elephants a year are being killed for their ivory and with only between 400,000 – 500,000 elephants in total…you do the maths.

We and the enforcement agencies and the dedicated conservationists can only do so much. Without political will we will fail. So, the international community, the USA, the European Union, the British Government, need to listen to the voice of Africa. They need to pay attention to the newly approved African Elephant Action Plan, endorsed by every single one of the 37 African countries with wild elephants. This Plan is the blue-print for the survival of the species but while ‘one-off ivory sales’ continue, while the UK Government, the EU and others fail to withdraw the ‘favoured ivory trading nation’ status from China and Japan, while some (perhaps including the UK Government officials who advised our former Environment Minister Joan Ruddock) continue to believe that limited, legal ivory sales stockpiled ivory can ‘satisfy demand’, then we will be fighting a losing war. Rampant demand is fuelling supply and far outstripping the potential supply of ivory. All the elephants would have to die and even then demand would not be ‘satisfied’!

Therefore, the only appropriate and effective course of action is, once again, to make all ivory trade illegal. No more one-off sales. No more concessions to trade. No more ivory tusks being sold at a staggering US$1,500 a kilo (US$700 a pound). Only then will the message be clear, will the poachers realise they have nowhere to hide, will the enforcement agencies and customs authorities be able to act with certainty …… and will the world’s wild elephants stand a fighting chance.

Blogging off



  1. Melanie Cameron Says:

    Absolutely sickened at the wholesale slaughter of these caring, intelligent and magnificent creatures for what??? To satisfy the shallow and superficial ‘wants’ of humans. When will humans learn not everything on this planet is for their sole benefit. The governments of the world and i don’t just mean the governments in Africa where this heinous barbarity is being carried out, i mean ALL governments have to come together to fight this as one. I have feared and have even had nightmares regarding this wholesale slaughter of animals in Africa once their was a large Chinese population in Africa as well as trade deals, it doesn’t take a philadelphia lawyer to work that one out. If it’s not government collusion with trade deals or back handers so they turn a blind eye or just give the lip service to this butchery. It’s downright cowardice from them and the allegedly 1st world countries to confront this issue as well as the Rhino butchery.

  2. Tory Braden Says:

    I believe if the carvers were arrested, especially with DNA evidence available, that would dampened the trade – no carving, no trinkets, no sales.

    My idea is to have a freeway billboard in Washington DC (preferably on the way to the Chinese Embassy) in tryptic photos saying in English & Mandarin: DON’T POACH, DON’T CARVE, DON’T SELL. They would notice and it would bring the Chinese to shame, something that is a strong motivator in their culture.

    As pointed in the article, the Chinese buyer is being told that elephants can replace their “teeth.” Some kind of service ads need to be put on Chinese TV that show it is slaughter for ivory, not replacement. Still, humans have a craving for status symbols, their “Tiffany” is ivory chopsticks and demand will be difficult to stop since humans are basically selfish. Ivory cell phone covers are scary too, considering now many phones there are. This brings us back to the manufacturers/carvers of the items. If the carvers are all in prison, what is there to buy except that which has already been bloodied?

    The idea of an elephant’s life for literal chopsticks is too horrific to really understand.

    ivory cell phone photo here: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1122968573765&set=o.106831981842