HOW DO WE SAVE THE ELEPHANT?
In a world driven by money, we have become eerily accustomed to seeing the environment, animals, and even humans themselves being displaced, mistreated and destroyed in the name of financial gain. The wiping out of the African elephant population for the ivory of their tusks is one such story, and is the focus of a new initiative spearheaded by Chelsea Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to stop the killing.
I was very pleased to be invited to join the audience at ABC Home for National Geographic’s ‘For The Love Of Elephants’; A conversation with Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair of The Clinton Foundation. Miss Clinton sat among four experts in the field of elephant poaching and wildlife conservation and spoke to a focused full house. We were all there to hear what was being done, could be done and how we could help.
I listened to the guests offering their strategies, plans and hopeful solutions. In addition to Clinton, Chopra and a range of wildlife experts, we heard from: John Heminway, writer, director & producer of Battle for Elephants; Bryan Christy, Chairman of Wildlife Direct; Joshua R. Ginsberg, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Senior Vice President of the Global Conservation Program; and His Excellency, Ambassador Tuvako N. Manongi, Permanent Representative of the United Republic of Tanzania.
Elephant poaching is not a new problem. The majestic species has faced centuries of danger at the hands of poachers looking to profit from the sales of the its ivory tusks. Though it is illegal in much of Africa, poaching is it an all time high, and being perpetrated by dangerous and ruthless criminal groups. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the African elephant population has dropped from 1.2 million in 1980, to just 420,000 In 2012, with 35,000 elephants slain in the last year alone. If the devastation continues at this rate, African elephants could be extinct in our lifetime.
It is a problem that affects not only the elephants, but the well-being of humans and countries as well. According to CGI, the International Fund for Animal Welfare recently published a report stating that wildlife trafficking, a multi-billion dollar market, is the fifth most lucrative criminal activity in the world, falling behind only drugs, human trafficking, oil, and counterfeit money. With a growing demand for ivory in Asia, and the money that stands to be made from it, poachers will do whatever it takes to fill their quotas, often going so far as to kill the guards watching the borders of Africa’s protected elephant sites, making it difficult to keep the people doing these important jobs safe. The continued, aggressive slaughtering of the elephants has caused a population decline of 76 percent since 2002, a problematic concept for the African countries whose tourism industries depend largely on their wildlife. Additionally, many of the criminal syndicates involved in the illegal ivory trade often funnel the profits into further criminal activity, including drugs, weapons and even terrorism.
Chelsea Clinton, who was first confronted with the plight of the elephants during a trip to Africa with her mother Hillary in 1997, is determined to curb the poachers and save Africa’s elephants with a three part plan rolled out by CGI. The plan is a collaboration between the United States and numerous European and African countries, Botswana, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, South Sudan, Malawi and Uganda in particular. It will begin with a three year, 80 million dollar commitment intended to “stop the killing, stop the trafficking and stop the demand.” The funds will be used to strengthen and increase security at 50 priority elephant protection sites, to campaign for a ban on the trade of ivory and ivory goods, and to ramp up the penalties for violating poaching laws. CGI, which has partnered with The Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Wildlife Fund, the African Wildlife Foundation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Conservation International and 11 other organizations, hopes to raise an additional 70 million dollars for its efforts, and to grind the decline of African elephants to a halt by the end of 2016.
What can you do about it? Of course you can donate to the cause, but just as effective would be to spread the word. Make yourself aware and then make others aware too. It is our duty to protect these extraordinary creatures because they cannot protect themselves.
Dereck and Beverly Joubert are award-winning filmmakers from Botswana who have been Explorers-in-Residence for over four years. Their mission is the conservation and understanding of the large predators and key African wildlife species that determine the course of all conservation in Africa.
They have been filming, researching, and exploring in Africa for over 25 years. Their coverage of unique predator behavior has resulted in 22 films, 10 books, six scientific papers, and many articles for National Geographic magazine. This body of work has resulted in five Emmys, a Peabody, the World Ecology Award, and the recent induction into the American Academy of Achievement.
Beverly Joubert is also an acclaimed photographer, and many of her photographs have appeared in National Geographic magazine. Filmmaking for them has always been a way to bring the message of conservation to audiences. Their recent expansion into conservation tourism via their new company, Great Plains, is a venture into community/conservation partnerships in Africa, and Great Plains has received awards for responsible tourism in London and South Africa.
This year they added land in Tanzania, Kenya and an exciting new project in Rwanda to their repertoire, bringing the total amount of impacted conservation land to about 1.5 million acres. These projects all aim to rehabilitate the environment and return these vast tracts of land to nature.
“We no longer have the luxury of time when it comes to wild life,” says Dereck. “They are in such a downward spiral that if we hesitate now, we will be responsible for extinctions across the globe. If there was ever a time to take action, it is now.”
All facts, numbers and quotes sourced from a press release from the Clinton Global Initiative.