Today, April 15, we are launching our campaign to SAVE ELEPHANTS and BUILD COMMUNITY! We hope you will join us – take a moment to learn more by checking out our Indiegogo site. You have the opportunity to be a founding member of establishing Elephantopia as a nonprofit while helping to sponsor Kavala, an elephant orphan in Zambia whose mother was killed by poachers. Thank you in advance for partnering with us to help us reach our stretch goal of $4500 in 45 days! 

Elephantopia_catchphrase_v2 CLICK HERE to JOIN THE HERD:


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Happy Weekend: Everyone Loves a Baby…Elephant!

There’s nothing cuter than a baby…and this baby elephant will bring a huge smile to your weekend!

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Give It A Rest: A Musician’s Opinion on the Ivory Ban

I’m a musician by trade. I began taking piano lessons at the age of 3, obtained a BA piano, and for the last 7 years I have been teaching, writing, directing and performing music of all sorts. With all it’s tones & dynamics, notes & rests, (all of which undeniably parallels the roller coaster of the human life) it could be said that “music is the shorthand of emotion.”

Currently the emotions of musicians with the American Federation of Musicians are worked up, fearful of the current Obama Administration’s ivory ban. Violinists believe their antique bows that contain ivory will be confiscated as contraband when touring and returning back to the United States. Pianists with antique pianos in-lain with ivory are frustrated that the value of their instrument will now significantly plummet. If this were a musical piece, the strings would begin picking up speed and intensity, the keyboardist would be running through minor arpeggios and the conductor would be flailing his arms about with ferocity as the vocalists begins:

“When the term ‘import’ is used on this ban, it doesn’t just mean commercial activity,” says Heather Noonan, vice president of advocacy for the League of American Orchestras. “It means bringing instruments into the country, even just for personal use, and even if you’re simply returning from work internationally with that instrument.”

“Everyone knows about Stradivari violins,” Moretti says, “and a bow, to a player, is almost equally as important as the violin.” (Violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti directs the McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University. She’s also a touring chamber musician who regularly jets through customs with her century-old bow. On her bow, and many like it, there’s just a tiny sliver of ivory clamping the bow hairs onto the wood.)


And then the rest.

In music, the rest is a time of silence. It allows for a moment where the nothing of life take center stage. It can be comforting. Or it can be uncomfortable. It can be climactic. Or elusive. Regardless, it makes you stop whatever you were doing and allows space to listen & learn.

So in this moment of rest, what could we learn?

The proposed regulations would place a near-total ban on anything made with ivory moving in and out of the U.S.

Craig Hoover, who heads up the Wildlife Trade and Conservation Branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says: “The reason for that is … we have seen, over the past five to 10 years, a dramatic, alarming and unprecedented increase in the slaughter of African elephants to supply the global ivory trade, and populations of both savannah elephants and forest elephants have dropped precipitously.”

The new federal rules do offer an exemption for old instruments, and to get the necessary paperwork, you have to prove you purchased the instrument before 1976. However, the Fish & Wildlife Service’s Hoover says that it’s often not easy to differentiate between old and new. “We had a long-term investigation in Philadelphia where we ended up seizing more than 1 ton of African elephant ivory that had been smuggled into the country, and that ivory was pretty much all disguised to look like antique ivory.”

Musicians are hoping for the administration to grant them a sort of “musical passport” for those already in possession of ivory-laid instruments. The Administration is looking to work something out before June when the ban goes into full effect. But the real question is, do future musicians need the ivory?

On her bow, and many like it, there’s just a tiny sliver of ivory clamping the bow hairs onto the wood. These days, it’s made with plastic, but Moretti says all of the great bows were manufactured in an age when ivory came standard.

Ivory is no longer standard. It’s time for the United States, the world’s second highest consumer of ivory, to devalue the use of any ivory. Because ultimately, ivory is not a needed commodity for any musical instrument (or anything for that matter!)


In 2011, the CEO of an Atlanta piano company has been fined $35,000 after pleading guilty to importing piano keys made from real ivory. Photo shared from FWS

This isn’t the first time musicians have been found guilty of not complying to governmental laws, as shown in the following story shared from  Forbes and the  NYTimes:

The Madagascar Ebony is a slow-growing tree species threatened by over-exploitation. Since 2006, harvesting ebony and exporting it in unfinished form from Madagascar has been banned.  In May 2008, the Lacey Act made it illegal to import into the United States plants and plant products (including wood) that have been harvested and exported in violation of the laws of another country. When manufacturing its guitars, the Gibson Guitar Corp. used sawn boards of Madagascar ebony in the form of “fingerboard blanks.” Notwithstanding the 2006 ban, Gibson’s Madagascar supplier continued to obtain the ebony fingerboard blanks from an exporter in Madagascar. Gibson Guitar Corporation then agreed to pay $350,000 in penalties to settle federal charges that it illegally imported ebony Madagascar to use for fret boards, ending a criminal investigation. The guitar maker agreed to pay a $300,000 fine and to donate $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to promote the protection of endangered hardwood trees, like ebony and rosewood. In return, the government deferred prosecution of the company for criminal violations of the Lacey Act.

So what will it be, musicians? I hope we can just give it a rest already and learn to create music using only the finest and most sustainable methods possible. Because our music isn’t supposed to destroy this world. No, as Plato so eloquently said,

“music gives a soul to the universe…life to everything”


shared from

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Happy Weekend: Elephant Crashes the Pool Party

Elephants are known to seek out clean, fresh water on a hot day…

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Calling All Elephant Advocates!

We are excited to announce that this week we received a notice from the Texas State Department that Elephantopia is officially recognized as a nonprofit in the state of Texas. As we celebrate this recognition, we realize this is just the beginning. Later this month we are launching our first campaign.


Our letter from the State!

We’d like to share a sneak peak with you and look forward to partnering together with you to save elephants and build community! This past weekend, our founder and director Elizabeth Chitwood began filming for a video that will be shared with the launch of our campaign.


Elizabeth filming our campaign video

The goal of campaign is to raise $1400 in 45 days to cover the initial costs of starting up Elephantopia as a nonprofit (this will cover state and federal fees, an official website and logo, PO Box, and more). Our stretch goal is to raise $4500 in 45 days. All profits raised above our $1400 goal will go directly to GRI’s elephant orphanage project to support Kavala.

Our friends in Zambia at GRI (Game Rangers International) are working with local communities, raising awareness about the poaching crisis and raising up leaders in elephant care as park rangers. GRI also runs an elephant orphanage. Elephantopia will sponsor Kavala, an innocent victim of the ivory trade. In 2011, her mother was killed by poachers. At 10 days old, GRI rescued her. Today, she is healthy and growing stronger, but is in need of sponsorship from a community of elephant advocates like yourself.

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We plan to launch our campaign on April 15, just in time for Earth Day 2014 and for folks in the US, this is a great way to use your tax refunds! Please consider being a part of the Elephantopia community as we launch a formal website & begin caring for Kavala.

With your help, we can save elephants and build community together. 

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HAPPY WEEKEND: Animal Mums Ranks Elephants at no.7

Check out this awesome video from Earth Unplugged sharing the top 10 animal mothers of the world – and elephants made the list at no.7!

They may not have to pay tuition or buy houses, but when was the last time you went through a 22-month pregnancy? What about eating your own arm to avoid leaving your soon-to-be children on a quest for food? From elephants to octopuses, Earth Unplugged show us the animals that set the standard for how to be good moms. (shared from HuffPost)

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How Community Can Save Elephants in Zambia


Elephants and buffalo cross the Luangwa River in Zambia. Shared from

Zambia…it’s a country with beautiful people, teaming with wildlife & elephants, but a place that is home, unfortunately, to poachers.

We are excited to be starting a friendship with Game Rangers International. They work in the greater Kafue National Park helping create stable communities through community outreach, education initiatives, caring for 8 elephant orphans and working alongside ZAWA (Zambia Wildlife Authority) to train local rangers to patrol and protect the wild elephant populations.

Currently in Kafue National Park, there is an estimated 5,000 elephants. ZAWA has their hands full trying to patrol these elephants in an area of 8,000 square miles (roughly the size of Whales). Sport Beattie, CEO of Game Rangers International, works hard on training rangers  to work with ZAWA claiming that “ZAWA is under resourced” and that they can’t “secure the park in the way it should be secured. Which means there aren’t enough tourists. Which means there isn’t enough revenue. So organizations like ourselves need to come and play a supporting role.”

On March 5, three Zambians were shot dead in Zimbabwe after being found illegally poaching in Hwange National Park. ZAWA claimed that these three people were part of a poaching group 14 large. Then, on March 19, a farmer was in the Muchinga Province was convicted of killing elephants in North Luangwa National Park using poison. He will serve six years in prison and was finned K2,000.  However, this was not his first arrest – in 2007 he was arrested for having 37kg of elephant meat and was jailed for two years.

We contacted GRI to hear their thoughts on these recent events and to learn more about the Kafue Conservation Project (KCP), which provides “welfare, training and operational support to wildlife personnel on the front line of endangered species protection.”

Sarah Davies, PR for GRI, stated,

As an organisation supporting Zambia Wildlife Authority, Game Rangers International support the punishment of wildlife crime. Poison, as well as several other methods of illegal killing including snaring and shooting, are increasingly threatening the biodiversity of Zambia with a gruesome and horrific death. This crime has a huge detrimental impact on both the ecosystems and the economies of Zambia and must be tackled. GRI applaud Zambia Wildlife Authority and the judicial systems of Zambia for this success. We need more help like this to protect wildlife in Zambia!

The KCP project invests in the local community. Locals who decide to work as a ranger are given housing, health care and education. They are trained on how to tract & protect wildlife like elephants from poachers and are given the necessary training & tools needed to safely patrol the parks. Take a moment to learn more about the programs by visiting their site HERE. 

We want to highlight these exciting achievements from GRI’s ranger programs as of October 2013: the Special Anti-Poaching Unit supported by GRI has

  • completed over 2,275 man patrol days in the greater KNP (Kafue National Park),
  • recovered 14 pieces of ivory & 19 weapons
  • confiscated 73 bicycles (often used in bush meat poaching),
  • removed 325 snares (that represents 325 animals that were saved),
  • apprehended 56 poachers (including 2 notorious ivory poachers)
  • successfully prosecuted 32 poachers 

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So although poaching is definitely still a problem in Zambia’s parks, we are confident and excited to see how GRI and ZAWA are working together to provide training and leadership opportunities for locals to get involved in protecting their heritage. This is a wonderful example of building community to save elephants, something Elephantopia is all about!

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Happy Weekend: Baby Elephant Wake Up Call

Good Morning! This adorable clip of a baby elephant trying to get up after it’s nap reminds me of how I feel on a Saturday morning trying to get out of bed!

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Ivory Economics


source unknown, shared from pinterest

A few weeks ago, I shared how the NRA in the United States is opposing the ivory ban. I was shocked to receive emails and comments from NRA members defending their desire to kill elephants and to sell ivory. My personal favorite statement was, and I quote,

I really don’t see how selling something increases demand.

A quick visit to wikipedia will refresh one’s understanding of how supply and demand work: when there is high demand for something, an equilibrium will not be found until the supply can successfully meet that demand. Unfortunately in the case for elephants and ivory, *the demand for ivory has exceeded the reproductive capacity of elephants.  Which means of course, that the animal will eventually die out.  (*shared from Marketplace)


source: wildaid

Would flooding the market with ivory help drive down the demand? CITES allowed two legal sales of ivory, one in 1998 and one in 2008. However, instead of satiating the desire for ivory, it only increased the appetite of the world’s leading consumers (China & the US). Patrick Omondi, species management coordinator for the Kenyan Wildlife Service states, “This legal sale has restarted the demand for ivory, and illegal poachers and smugglers are back in business.” Since the 2008 legal ivory sale, elephant poaching rates have made a tragic comeback, reaching pre-1989 levels of up to 30,000 a year.  And the sale did not lower the cost for ivory. According to Shruti Suresh from the Environmental Investigation Agency, the price of legal & documented ivory went up from $US 150 per kilogram, to now more than $US 1,500 per kilo. With ivory fetching such a high price, it’s no wonder poachers are trying to get illegal ivory on the market under the guise of the legal ivory trade.

As the world’s second highest consumer for ivory, a ban would cost potential ivory dealers and traders here in the United States hundreds and thousands of dollars in lost sales.  And that is what the NRA and antique dealers here in the US are worried about: loosing the value and ability to sell their ivory or the ability to import massive quantities of ivory into the US from hunting expeditions.

The NRA has 3.1 million members and a call has been issued for a rally against the ivory trade. The current law allows each hunter to bring back two elephant trophies. But looking at the numbers, 3.1 million hunters far exceeds the estimated 400-600,000 elephants left in Africa. And all these people are calling on the US government to revoke the ivory ban.

In 2013, 200,000 letters were sent to the White House calling for the United States to take a stand against elephant poaching. Your voice was heard, as the administration formed the task force to investigate illegal wildlife trafficking partly in response to the public outcry over the escalating poaching crisis.

In 2014, can we rally 400-600,000 people to be the voice of the elephants? Please copy/paste the note below to the White House (click HERE for the direct link) and ask your friends to do the same. Remember, when the buying stops, the killings can too.


source unknown: shared from google

To the Honorable Mr. President,

I want to thank you for your dedication to end illegal wildlife trafficking. I am pleased with the recent ban on ivory sales in the US, as our nation is the world’s second largest consumer of ivory. As you know, the illegal ivory trade has direct links with terrorist organizations such as Al Shabaab, Kony and the LRA who are a threat not only to the United States, but to African governments and communities.  It is my hope that other countries will quickly follow the example of the United States, banning sales of ivory & increasing the penalties for poachers & dealers of ivory. This is a monumental step toward halting the illegal ivory trade. Thank you.


[Your Name, State of residence & Zip Code]

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Happy Weekend: it’s a big, wide world for baby!

Enjoy this clip shared from BBC and see this baby elephant interact with the world! Thank goodness Mom is close by!


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