Why save the elephant?

Elephants have roamed the wild for 15 million years and today this iconic species faces their biggest threat to survival due to continued ivory poaching. As long as there is a demand for ivory, elephants will be continued to be killed for their tusks. Today it is estimated up to 36,000 elephants are killed annually, that’s one life lost every 15 minutes.

Reasons to save the elephant:

  • If we don’t act now this iconic species could be extinct from the wild by 2025.
  • In some countries of Africa including Sierra Leone and Senegal, elephants have already been driven to extinction.
  • Communities across Africa are dependent on elephants for an income through tourism. Saving the elephants also means preventing poverty, sustaining livelihoods and promoting sustainable tourism.
  • Elephants are a keystone species. Other animals, plants and entire ecosystems rely on them for survival.
  • ‘As go the elephants, so do the trees.’ Elephants are known as ‘nature’s gardeners’, plants and trees rely on elephants to disperse their seeds far and wide through their dung.
  • Elephant’s large footprints act as water collectors for smaller animals.
  • By uprooting trees to feed, they control the tree population leaving grasses to thrive and sustain animals such as wildebeests and zebras.
  • Elephants share the same emotions and cognitive behavior as humans. They grieve for their lost loved ones, they feel fear, joy and empathy and are highly praised for their intelligence.


Ivory trade - Past and Present

In the early 1970s, demand for ivory rocketed with 80% of traded raw ivory coming from poached elephants. A ban was put in place in 1989 by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and all international trade was prohibited in an attempt to combat this massive illegal trade.

Major ivory markets were eliminated and some countries in Africa experienced a steep decline in illegal killing allowing some elephant populations to recover. Following a ‘one-off sale’ in 2008, the illegal trade rocketed with 2011 seeing the largest seizures of ivory since records began. Elephant populations declined rapidly as poaching escalated across much of Africa, fuelling the black market.

In 2012, 36,000 elephants were killed for their tusks. A record high leading conservationists to estimate their extinction by 2025 if urgent action is not taken.

Today the demand for ivory continues, wild elephants are being slaughtered daily for their tusks.

For many individuals, especially in, but not limited to, Far Eastern countries, ivory continues to be a symbol of wealth, status and power. As it stands, China’s ivory industry is poised for growth.

The government has licensed at least 35 carving factories and 130 ivory retail outlets and sponsors ivory carving at schools like the Beijing University of Technology. Stemming demand for ivory from consumer countries is fundamental to the survival of the elephant species.
(Source: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/10/ivory/christy-text)

Organised bands of criminals are stealing and slaughtering elephants, rhinos and tigers in a way that has never been seen before. Poachers are taking these animals, sometimes in unimaginably high numbers, and using the weapons of war to efficiently kill large herds of wild, innocent animals. Sub-machine guns, night vision goggles and even helicopters are used to slaughter up to 100 elephants each day. It's not just animals lives at risk, in the last 10 years, 1,000* rangers were killed protecting wildlife in the “war” against poachers.

The profits from wildlife trafficking are being traced to terrorist groups whilst in turn poses an increased threat to national and economic stability. Wildlife crime is said to be valued at approximately $17billion.

* The Thin Green Line Foundation


Kenya’s port of Mombasa is the major transit route for the ferrying of illegal ivory from the East and Central Africa region. Ivory is often chopped into small pieces, polished and neatly cut into small cubes and circles to conceal the tusk shape during the scanning process.

The ivory chips are then packed in sacks and hidden inside a container which is then declared as normal export goods. Kenya is among eight countries who have been ordered by CITES (Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species) to readdress their port security by 2014 to avoid being blacklisted.

Kenya's President signed the long-awaited Wildlife and Conservation Management Plan at the end of December 2013. For years conservationists in Kenya and the rest of the world have been calling for more stringent penalties for those involved in poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.

Under the new Bill, poachers, traffickers and those committing wildlife crimes will now face much more severe penalties. The new law allows for fines as high as USD$200,000 and a jail sentence of no less than five years. In January 2014, a Kenyan court convicted a Chinese man of smuggling ivory and ordered him to pay a $233,000 fine or serve seven years in jail in the first sentence handed out since Kenya introduced a new anti-poaching law.

However since the introduction of the new bill, there has been little or no impact on the level of ivory and rhino horn poaching incidences throughout Kenya and conservationists are calling for stricter regulations on arrests and fines.

A survey carried out by IFAW showed that 70% of the Chinese population believed that elephant’s ivory simply fell out and did not inflict any harm on the elephant in the process. This statistic is a firm reminder that education is fundamental to the future survival of elephants.

Through our iworry campaign, we seek to educate and inform Chinese communities in major cities around the world as to the reality of the ivory trade and the impact it is having on elephants.

Imagery, facts, figures and knowledge are used to inform community members, allowing them to make an educated choice as to their own future buying habits. Education is needed now, whilst efforts must continue to be made to secure a ban.

The implications of the illegal ivory trade affect us all. In Kenya, tourism supports approximately one in four jobs.

Those who work in tourism or as Park Rangers, as well as many other related occupations, depend on healthy populations of wildlife for survival.

The threat of terrorist activity linked with the illegal trade in ivory has deeply affected Kenya's tourism and economy. Kenyan security forces are attempting to stamp out al-Shabaab activity which is putting tourists off visiting the country and in turn funding wildlife conservation

The African Elephant Action Plan (AEAP) was implemented  in 2007 at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES. Africa's elephants were facing serious threats due to continued poaching following the increased demand for ivory in consumer countries. Following the conference, all African countries with elephant populations were directed to create an AEAP to provide immediate action to protect the species.

Completed in 2010 by 38 African elephant range states, the AEAP identifies key objectives with clear strategies with objective 1 being to "reduce illegal killing of elephants and illegal trade in elephant products".

The main aim of the AEAP is to address the crisis at a field level and note which physical actions are to be implemented and funded most urgently.

The 38 African elephant range States and authors of the Plan are: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Republic of South Sudan, Republic of the Sudan, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.


A CAMPAIGN BY THE DAVID SHELDRICK WILDLIFE TRUST. Visit www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org