Every Day Should be World Elephant Day
For more than a quarter century Born Free Foundation as a charity – and I personally – have been fighting the massively destructive ivory trade. I doubt as much attention has been paid to the plight of elephants in these past 25 years as there is right now. And World Elephant Day, today, is the perfect time for everyone everywhere to simply declare: No More Bloody Ivory Trade.
Elephant deaths are on the rise as the insatiable appetite for ivory grows. While Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) stopped the commercial ivory trade in 1989, giving this beleaguered species a chance to recover, the erosion of the ban that began in 1997 has fuelled demand for ivory bangles, chopsticks, and other items, leaving a sea of elephant carcasses across the African savannah.
Born Free’s recently published Ivory’s Curse shed light on the militarism and professionalism of the ivory poaching business, and the terrorist outfits in Africa that drive the carnage. A recently published peer-reviewed paper in the scientific journal ‘Conservation Biology’ further highlights the critical role of corruption and organised crime in the illegal ivory trade and the authors make it very clear how unfeasible it would be to have a legal ivory trade that isn’t abused as a laundering mechanism for illegal, poached ivory.
So with all this new knowledge, and with World Elephant Day, how do we turn this information into life-saving action?
In America, the Obama Administration has propelled forward a National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ended elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
The state of New Jersey is to be congratulated for recently passing a law prohibiting individuals from importing, selling, bartering, purchasing, or possessing with intent to sell any ivory products. As far as I’m concerned, banning the domestic, and not just international, sale of ivory is key to stopping the illegal ivory trade. I can only hope that other U.S. states and countries follow suit.
The U.S. and other countries have also destroyed their ivory stockpiles. Now, the North Carolina Zoo has even destroyed it’s store of more than 90kg (200 pounds) of ivory and rhino horn. Destruction of ivory held in private hands and by governments is of course a positive step and is the only sure way of preventing it from finding its way into illegal trade, although I do wonder what the zoo were doing with so much ivory in the first place and why, given security concerns, it wasn’t handed over to government authorities?
Although the French government crushed over 3 tonnes of its ivory stockpile and made clear commitments in the London Declaration on illegal wildlife trade in February this year, these actions were clearly undermined recently, when the government approved the auction of 1 tonne of raw ivory in the south of France. Only last week a seizure of ivory shipped from France took place in Vietnam…
Wildlife belongs in the wild, and elephants belong in Africa – alive and thriving. The leaders and compassionate citizens of the world should unite today and declare this world safe for elephants, now and forever. World Elephant Day must be a call to action; if we don’t pull together to end the scourge of elephant poaching, it will instead become a memorial to a lost treasure.