When I was contemplating whether or not to start this blog, this question kept going through my mind. Why should anyone care? What does it matter to the average person if elephants are roaming the African Savanna or the jungles of Thailand in twelve years? At first, I was discouraged because I didn’t see any immediate connection (other than than the fact that I absolutely love these animals and think everyone in the world should, too). But after more thought and research, I found some very compelling reasons why you should care about the plight of elephants.
- Biodiversity and The Circle of Life: Elephants are known as a keystone species. Elephants help maintain the forest and savannah ecosystem by what they eat and excrete. In fact, it is estimated that at least a third of tree species in central African forests rely on elephants for distribution of their seeds. Elephants also create clearings and gaps in the canopy of tropical forests which allows for tree regeneration. And in the savannas, elephants reduce bush cover to create an environment favorable to a mix of browsing and grazing animals.
- Tourist Economies: Many countries around the world rely on tourism to boost their economy. In places like Kenya, the government has goals to eradicate poverty by 2030, one of the means being through safari tourism. However, with poachers carrying high tech equipment (night goggles, high powered riffles, access to helicopters), rangers in the parks are finding themselves in battles with armed criminals. This is not a safe environment for tourists, rangers or elephants (read some great facts on this from the NYTimes and an interview with a poacher-turned-conservationist). And local villagers are also turning against poaching as the illegal wildlife trade fuels crime, corruption, instability and inter-communal fighting.
- Poaching Kills People: While at least 25,000 elephants have been slaughtered in Africa in 2011 alone, hundreds of humans have also died as a result of poaching. Rangers in parks are not trained military personnel. They are trained scientists, studying and patrolling the parks for research and safety. However, when they come upon armed poachers, too often rangers are injured or killed. In fact, there are areas of wildlife parks in Kenya where rangers are not allowed to patrol since it is a heavy poaching zone. On the other hand, there are anti-poaching groups that also patrol the parks, purposefully seeking to injure or kill poachers. As long as poaching continues, it will fuel brutal human deaths.
- Poaching Creates Corruption: Ivory is selling for more than gold and narcotics. With this kind of money involved, corruption occurs all over the world through all sorts of personnel (rangers, police, politicians, wardens, businessmen, customs officials and more).
- National Security Issue: Hilary Clinton recently spoke out about the ivory trade and how the corruption that is linked with the trade makes this an issue for American national security, especially since America is the second largest destination market for illegally trafficked wildlife in the world (second behind China).
- Ethically Moral: We know the effects poaching is having on the lives of humans, economies, and biodiversities around the world. To do nothing but stand idly by is odious.
SHARE - this page with your friends and family.
SIGN - the petition for the March CITES conference, asking for ivory to be banned. There are just not enough elephants in the world to support the demand for ivory, legal or not.
FOSTER - an elephant through The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
READ - continue to educate yourself on this issue. Check out the book list here, and share others you may have already read.