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Update from Last Week’s Ivory Summit in London

Last year, 50,000 elephants were killed.

In case you missed that, in 2013, 50,000 elephants were killed for their tusks. Or think of this: every 15 minutes an elephant dies in Africa. 

You may wonder, how was this number been determined. According to Shruti Suresh from the Environmental Investigation Agency:

‘This [figure] is based on the huge volumes of ivory that have been seized by enforcement authorities worldwide,’

And what exactly was that volume? In 2013, authorities seized 45,000 kg of ivory in Africa and Asia.

The next logical question is where is this ivory coming from — Is it all legal or illegal? In 2013, The UN authorised a legal ivory trade stating that “sellers would have to use their earnings for conservation and prove their practices would not affect elephant populations.” The goal was to reduce the price of ivory on the black market, but the Environmental Investigation Agency among other conservation organizations, opposed this legalization, believing that “the legal trade would stimulate the demand for ivory, it would drive prices up and it would serve basically as a mechanism to launder illegal ivory.”  And that’s what’s happening now.

The price of legal & documented ivory went up from $US 150 per kilogram, to now more than $US 1,500 per kilo. If nothing is done soon, Ms Suresh states the largest land mammal in the world and the icon of Africa, will no longer exist.

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You can hear the full 10 minute interview with Ms Suresh HERE and click “LISTEN NOW” or “DOWNLOAD AUDIO” (highly recommend taking the time to listen to it).

The London Summit for Wildlife Trade last week did have some real positive outcomes. Over 50 countries were in attendance to discuss the illegal ivory trade, it’s link to terrorism, the human lives lost in the war against poaching, and the future demise of an iconic, keystone species.

Some positive outcomes this past week? The US issued an ivory ban, London pledged to destroy all 1200 pieces of ivory in Buckingham Palace, and four African countries who in the past have wanted to sell their ivory stockpiles, took a bold stance on the matter: Bostwana, Chad, Tanzania  and Gabon all agreed to a 10 year moratorium of ivory sales.  Chad and Tanzania have lost staggering amounts of elephants (50 years ago in Chad, there were over 50,000 elephants. Today, there are 1500. And Tanzania in the 1970s boasted over 100,000 elephants. Today, there are 13,084). These two nations also pledged to destroy their stockpiles. Tanzania holds the largest stockpile of ivory in the world (worthy over US$50 million) - destroying that would send a clear message that the ivory trade is not to be tolerated nor encouraged and that ivory is worth nothing when it’s not on an elephant.

Africa knows the importance of their iconic heritage, the elephant, and the toll the ivory trade has on it’s people. But as the President of Tanzania notes, in order for real change to occur, two things must be done by world leaders:

1) He said the efforts of the government on anti-poaching would only be realized if there is a TOTAL BAN ON IVORY TRADE throughout the region and the whole world at large.

2) He also said countries like China, Vietnam, and Thailand should advocate for a ‘NO IVORY BUYING’ CAMPAIGN to boost anti-poaching efforts.

To learn more about what the U.S. is doing about the ivory trade, watch this 3 minute interview with Bryan Christy (National Geographic) explaining the new ivory ban and regulations needed to save the elephant.

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