(Wikimedia Commons)

Sixty-two percent of elephants have disappeared from Central Africa between 2002-2011, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. Poachers are killing the animals for their tusks, which feed the lucrative ivory trade. In recent years poachers have found more efficient and lethal methods, from poisoning salt licks with cyanide to mowing elephants down with AK-47s and hacksaws. We talk with experts about the plight of the elephants, and about education efforts to curb the demand for illegal ivory.

Guests:
Bryan Christy, investigative reporter, National Geographic
Paula Kahumbu, executive director, the Kenya Land Conservation Trust and WildlifeDirect, and chairman of the Friends of Nairobi National Park
Dr. Sam Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology, University of Washington
Iain Douglas-Hamilton, zoologist and founder, Save the Elephants

  • Lois Olmstead

    Thank you for this story! Please know that there will be a March for the Elephants in San Francisco on Friday, October 4th beginning at Portsmouth Square (733 Kearny Street) and ending at Union Square with a rally. Arrive at 10:00 a.m.; marching begins at 11:00 a.m.

    • Neytiri Tskaha

      Thank you!

  • Neytiri Tskaha

    Thank you for this story. An elephant is killed once every 15 minutes by poachers, primarily to satisfy the demand from China and its ivory carving factories. Extinction in the wild is within 10 years.

    Also, please note that San Francisco is marching to raise awareness and demand an end to the ivory trade in the US an elsewhere on Oct4th, SF is one of 40 cities marching worldwide. Starting at Portsmouth Square and ending at Union – gather at Portsmouth at 10:30am.

    I am one of the organizers of the march in SF. Please advertise the march here–> http://www.MarchForElephants.org – thank you!

    Also, please note that San Francisco was instrumental in organizing a billboard designed by NY artist Asher Jay in Times Square. The billboard can be viewed here: (below) and is currently playing on broadway in Times Square.

    http://www.TheElephantInTimesSquare.org

    The Campaign was entirely crowd funded though the crowd funding platform LoudSauce.com

  • Yes,
    the march is going forward. BUT, if you are not talking about China’s role in the holocaust, then the holocaust will not stop. I am flabbergasted China’s role is rarely mentioned. If anyone is going to educate, and not sing to the choir, then the world must be told China is carving the species into extinction. The amount of people who show up tomorrow will not repeat again. This is no time to pussy foot around. All these
    numbers around the world marching with tepid “just say no” signs will do
    nothing to stop China; the Chinese will laugh behind the windows of
    their shops selling ivory because they have not been exposed for the end
    result, their carvings and the murderers they are. MLK said, “Freedom
    is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the
    oppressed.” The operative word is “demanded.” The killing and carving
    will not be voluntarily given up until it is demanded by us.

    • Chris Ripps

      Jarina, a seed that grows primarily in Brasil, is known as “vegetable ivory” and can be carved and shaped just like elephant tusk ivory. Jarina is sustainable and has been used for over 100 years as an ivory substitute.

    • Tschapka

      China’s role is rarely mentioned? It seems quite the opposite. Out of all the ivory consumers in Asia, the Chinese are routinely and consistently singled out for blame, including on this show, because they happen to be the most numerous, and have become relatively wealthy over the past couple of decades, significantly driving up the demand.

      Yes, the demand for ivory fuels the killing, just as the demand for drugs drives the drug trade. Every pot smoker and coke user is as responsible for the murders and destruction related to the drug war as the Chinese ivory buyers are for the killing of elephants. We have been doing a lot more than “demanding” an end to illicit drug use forever. How has that worked out for us?

      And what exactly are you going to do if the Chinese ignored your demands? Smash their windows and burn down their shops? Round them up and terminate them? How far would you be prepared to go to bring an end to your ‘holocaust’?

      Given that antique ivory is perfectly legal to trade, how do you even know whether the ivory carvings behind those shop windows that troubled you so much are illegal?

      The more you single out an ethnic group for your venom, the more you impose ‘demand’ on them as though they exist merely to satisfy your whims and wishes, the less likely they are to take your cause seriously, and more likely they are to see you as someone who is simply looking for an excuse to vent your ethnic prejudice or worse. If anything, your actions will cause the Chinese to associate the anti-ivory-trade movement with sinophobia, and do everything they can to resist your attack on their way of life.

      Hardly the sort of reaction that would help save the elephants, don’t you think?

      If your goal is to induce lasting behavioral changes through education, talking to someone calmly and respectfully as an individual works a lot better than intimidation and mob tactics. If you are simply looking for an opportunity to shout at a bunch of sub-humans from the safety of a mob, then go right ahead… and good luck saving a single elephant.

      • JeanShirk

        I like what Richard Rorty said: “It’s not by arguing well but by speaking differently that one can change the world.”

        • Neytiri Tskaha

          Indeed.

        • Tschapka

          True, but speaking differently does not absolve you the need to argue well, if your goal is in fact to change the world. After all, the real world would only change if other people adopt your new language, and they are unlikely to do so unless you can convince them that it is better than the one they already have.

      • Carving is the Bottle Neck of the trade. No carvings = nothing to buy. No carvings = no orders for poached tusks by the carvers. It is world governments which will have to shame China that they are carving into extinction and force them to start.

        • Neytiri Tskaha

          Thank you.

      • Neytiri Tskaha

        The primary problem is most definitely China. China’s ivory carving factories need to be shut down – by education, accountability, and yes, by shaming – it can be done tactically – without venom. This issue is as large and as critical and the civil rights issue that was waged in our country not so long ago – we HAVE to point fingers – but it can be done in a manner that does not carry “hatred” or “anger” the problem is not so much the people of China “buying the ivory” but its government which insists on maintaining ivory carving factories, despite elephants being massacred each day – for trinkets.

        The issue needs to see activism on the ground and peaceful direct action – sit ins at Chinese Embassies, demonstrations outside “legal” (quote deliberate) ivory stores – and, frankly, the legality of an issue does not confer “morality”; so debating whether ivory is “legal” or not is futile (in my book) it ALL needs to be illegal given the context… here are the numbers: If ivory trade is legal, we need to lobby to make it “not so”.

        Elephants deserve to live! (itโ€™s that simple)

        Statistics: The elephants are dying in Africa at a staggering rate.

        — More than a million elephants existed in 1980. That number has now dwindled to less than 400,000 โ€“ primarily due to poaching.

        — 35,000 elephants are killed each year, 100 a day and 1 every 12 to 15 minutes.

        — 30% increase in deaths this year, or 45,000

        — Extinction in the wild is likely within the next 7 to 10 years.

        — Ivory Carving Factories in China: The largest market is in China where as many as 400 tons of raw ivory are processed in a year through the ivory carving factories. The burgeoning middle class in that country has escalated the demand for ivory.

        — Sales of Ivory in the U.S.: The U.S. still permits the sale of legacy ivory (or pre-1989 ban ivory) as well as importation of trophy-hunted ivory within and to this country. This is why we march through Chinatown today, because ivory is sold in some of these stores.

        — Environmental Concerns: Elephants are a keystone species. Their feeding habits create new forests. They also dig for water during the dry season, creating waterholes for other species. Much of African wildlife depends on the survival of elephants.

        — Economic and National Security: The loss of elephants not only represents an ecological disaster but an economic and security threat as well. African wildlife tourism depends on wildlife which is a large part of African economies. Disturbing these fragile economies will lead to a destabilized Africa.

        • Ronald Orenstein

          China is, today, the largest destination for illegal ivory. This is not a consequence of population size but of growing affluence and increasing demand (as well as its extensive and porous borders). China’s ongoing legal sales are only a small part of the reported trade in that country, and I believe a moratorium on these sales would greatly assist efforts to reduce demand and bring the illegal trade under control. The Chinese government should be encouraged to take these steps. This is not an issue of blame but of recognition of the situation. China, as the world’s biggest ivory customer, could be the leader in the fight against illegal trade, and the world should encourage it to take that role.

          • Tschapka

            If there had been 10 million Chinese instead of 1.3 billion, they could be as affluent as the Swiss and the demand for ivory would not be where it is today; so population size is obviously a factor in that sense, as it is a factor in many economic issues involving the Chinese.

            You are of course right on your other points. What people like you have been doing is admirable, and I wish you all the success, but a look at some of the comments here should make it clear that many who feel passionately about this issue may not have studied the problem in as much depth as you have, and are far more interested in ‘blaming’ (or its even more self-righteous derivative – ‘shaming’) than ‘encouraging’. There is a world of difference between these approaches! Personally, I think the simplistic and obnoxious ‘shaming’ approach can only backfire, because your target will stop listening to you once he thinks you are being a pompous jerk, especially if he suspects you are motivated at least in part by some form of prejudice, given that he is being singled out based on his nationality.

            The ivory trade problem is complex and involves many countries world-wide, with substantial historical, cultural, political and economic factors that resist simplistic solutions. I was only driven to comment because I think your worthy cause is ill served by those who subscribe to the belief that the “murderous Chinese” who are bent on committing elephant “holocaust” are the root cause of the problem, and that a show of force through the streets of Chinatown (as if the residents there live under Chinese rather than US laws) is somehow an appropriate or effective solution. Sounds a little too ‘Kristallnacht’y for my taste.

            I don’t expect my comment to change their belief or tactics, but it’s free ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Rachel Leibman

    When I was in Southern Africa a few years ago, it seemed like there were too many elephants. They were very destructive to the landscape. Our guide from Zimbabwe said that he thinks the herds need to be culled but they could not do this politically. No one is suggesting that poaching or legal hunting for ivory should be allowed. Just wondering if Southern Africa is different in terms of the numbers of elephants than other parts of Africa.

    • Neytiri Tskaha

      “Too many elephants” Translates to too many humans – in reality. Human population explosions have deprived not just elephants, but most animals their legacy habitats. We need to reduce our numbers. We take their homes away from them and then use convenient words like “cull” to eliminate them from the Earth… we need a different paradigm.

      • Rachel Leibman

        Yes, I agree that there are too many humans and that there is not nearly enough space for elephants. But in reality, do you think this paradigm can be changed significantly enough to support the large herds of Southern Africa? The herds are expanding and the range land for the elephants is not. The biodiversity of the savanna is changing. The woodland canopy in many areas is totally gone. I am not suggesting culling, was only passing along what others suggested. I have no idea if culling would even help. But I also don’t think that simply saying that we need to reduce our numbers is a realistic solution.

        • Ronald Orenstein

          The problem is not the number of elephants but the scope of the illegal trade, which moves from country to country and smuggles its ivory across borders. This trade cannot (in my opinion) be controlled with a partial ban; in fact the legally-approved sale to China of large quantities of stockpiled ivory from southern Africa in 2008 may have been a significant contributor to the rise of demand in that country, today the world’s number one destination for smuggled ivory.

          There is also considerable difference of opinion as to the ecological impact of large elephant populations (at some levels it is beneficial for other species as elephants create a diverse mosaic of habitats that suppers a high level of biodiversity). Zimbabwe has been a vociferous promoter of a legalised ivory trade, and its statements as to the size and impact of its elephant populations have been questioned. Some argue that both figures have been inflated as part of the propaganda campaign for re-opening the legal ivory trade.

          I should mention that I have been involved in this issue for over twenty-five years; there is a link to my book “Ivory, Horn and Blood” on this page, and readers may want to consult it for a history of the issue and a discussion on what we can do to bring this crisis under control.

          • Rachel Leibman

            I hope you did not get the impression that I support any kind of ivory trade – legal, poached or from stockpiled stores. I do not, and the people I spoke to in Zimbabwe and Botswana were also firmly against such practices despite what their governments may be promoting.

            I guess my question is: Do you believe that the habitats in southern Africa can support expanding elephant populations? I am truly asking this from a point of ignorance. The landscape at Chobe looked utterly devastated but aside from aesthetics, I am in no position to say if this is good or bad. You say that at some levels, large elephant populations are beneficial for other species. Do we know what those levels are?

            I look forward to reading your book!

          • Ronald Orenstein

            These are very good questions, and not at all easy to answer. I suspect that they would have to be answered on a case-by-case basis, with considerable data both on the size and rate of increase of populations and the nature of the ecosystem they inhabit. For example – how big are the populations compared to historic levels? How rapidly are they increasing? Are the elephants free to migrate, even locally? What other factors (e.g. drought, human encroachment) may be involved? Is there a cyclic phenomenon going on (i.e. will a degraded habitat lead to a local population crash, followed by habitat regeneration?).

            The same answer is true in considering “beneficial” population levels – you have to make this determination based on the exact data about the area you are studying. Generalizing on these matters can be dangerous. There are a number of studies on specific regions that can give you one idea, including classic studies by David Western, Iain Douglas-Hamilton and others in East Africa. For a short but interesting discussion of a South African case study see http://opwall.com/wp-content/uploads/SW248-Estimating-the-impact-of-elephants-on-habitat-in-Welgevonden-Reserve-South-Africa.pdf. For a pro-culling point of view see http://libres.uncg.edu/ir/uncg/f/m_kalcounis-ruppell_elephants_1997.pdf; for an example of elephant benefits to habitat see http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1146609X06000294.

  • Amanda Krest

    Please please please announce the department of game and fish tip number for those who wish to anonymously surrender ivory! 888.334.2258

    • Neytiri Tskaha

      Good idea.

  • Judi Reynolds

    Thank you for your story on the plight of the elephants! I will be marching tomorrow in the San Francisco March for Elephants! We are on of 42 cities, world wide that is marching for these magnificent beings trying to save them from extinction! Please advertise these important marches http://www.marchforelephants.org -thank you so much!

    • Neytiri Tskaha

      Thank you Judi.

  • Eden Umble

    Thank you for bringing attention to this important animal rights issue. Artist Anne Pentland was inspired by a similar story of elephant poaching to create Love The Planet.net, an apparel company featuring her original artwork which donates 10% of sales to organizations doing real work to save species and habitat of elephants, cheetahs, sea turtles and other endangered species. Love The Planet aims to be the biggest contributor for wildlife protection in the U.S. http://lovetheplanet.net/ We will be participating in the San Francisco march tomorrow – thank you Neytiri for coordinating this event! It’s critical that more people take action to prevent elephant extinction before it’s too late.

  • JeanShirk

    Here’s a link to more about the “vegetable ivory” or “ivory nut” referenced below: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytelephas. What are the ecological and human implications of cultivating this plant to fulfill demand for ivory?

    • China makes resin cast statues that you cannot tell are not ivory until you feel it.

  • Dennis Dougherty

    Thank you March for the Elephants. I found out too late to join tomorrows march… but I will be there next time.

    • Neytiri Tskaha

      Thank you.

  • Neytiri Tskaha

    Here are the statistics:

    Elephants deserve to live! (itโ€™s that simple)

    Statistics: The elephants are dying in Africa at a staggering rate.

    — More than a million elephants existed in 1980. That number has now dwindled to less than 400,000 โ€“ primarily due to poaching.

    — 35,000 elephants are killed each year, 100 a day and 1 every 12 to 15 minutes.

    — 30% increase in deaths this year, or 45,000

    — Extinction in the wild is likely within the next 7 to 10 years.

    — Ivory Carving Factories in China: The largest market is in China where as many as 400 tons of raw ivory are processed in a year through the ivory carving factories. The burgeoning middle class in that country has escalated the demand for ivory.

    — Sales of Ivory in the U.S.: The U.S. still permits the sale of legacy ivory (or pre-1989 ban ivory) as well as importation of trophy-hunted ivory within and to this country. This is why we march through Chinatown today, because ivory is sold in some of these stores.

    — Environmental Concerns: Elephants are a keystone species. Their feeding habits create new forests. They also dig for water during the dry season, creating waterholes for other species. Much of African wildlife depends on the survival of elephants.

    — Economic and National Security: The loss of elephants not only represents an ecological disaster but an economic and security threat as well. African wildlife tourism depends on wildlife which is a large part of African economies. Disturbing these fragile economies will lead to a destabilized Africa.

  • Vern W Leathers

    Such beautiful and intelligent animals. Only a greedy species such as man could do this.

  • Follow @iworrytrade for ongoing tweets on ivory markets, which have no reason to exist, and represent the destruction of elephants and rhinos. Please.

  • Diana Newkirk Morris

    Thank you for sharing the crisis with the elephants. Please share with the world before it’s too late. We’ll be marching in Augusta, Georgia Friday at 6:00 p.m. The March starts at the Augusta Common. Please join us. What do we want? To save the Elephants! When do we want it? NOW!

  • bpnjensen

    Africa and the Earth need elephants. We need elephants. Elephants need to live. Nobody needs ivory or trophies, however, and there is NO justification for killing them (let alone any other animal). The holocaust against elephants, and all animals, must END.

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