2011, 2012, and 2013 were the worst years for elephants in decades. Some estimates put the number of elephants killed in 2013 as high as 50,000 . More than 41 tonnes of elephant ivory were seized in 2013, the largest quantity in 25 years.
On the plus side, 2013 also saw a number of positive initiatives in the fight to save and protect elephants, and 2014 is shaping up to be a watershed year in the fight to save elephants.
In Africa, Kenya and Tanzania saw new wildlife bills passed and large and well-funded initiatives were launched, including the Clinton Global Initiative’s Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants and the Great Elephant Census.
The horrific reality of the poaching crisis and trafficking of ivory is being increasingly reported in the press, raising public awareness of the severity and far-reaching consequences of this criminal and murderous trade (notably The Independent’s Elephant Appeal, started in December 2013). Countries around the world are showing their support for an ivory ban by destroying their ivory stockpiles – the USA, France, China, Hong Kong, and Chad destroyed all or part of their stockpiles, with more countries pledged to follow in 2014.
In March 2014 the USA issued a national strategy to combat wildlife trafficking, which includes a ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory.
In China too the movement to ban ivory is also gathering momentum. A petition signed by a group of leading businesspeople and others call on the government to enact a complete ban on ivory.
In February 2014, in a much heralded first for a meeting of its kind, 46 countries came together in London for a global summit on the illegal wildlife trade. In the end, it did not live up to the expectations and hopes, and fell far short of what advocates would have liked to see – no actual bans, no concrete commitment of money and resources for projects on the ground (all desperately in need of funding), no statement from China, no rules or milestones which would incur punitive actions if not met, and so on. Mainly a lot of goodwill and buzz was generated (always a good thing), and agreement of INTENT and recognition of the urgency of the situation. The meeting produced the London Declaration (see below), signed by all attendees.
Change is on the way, but time is fast running out to save elephants.
The more people who join the fight for change, the more chance we have of saving them.
Please help make 2014 the year the tide turns … the year that the dream of ending the poaching, banning ivory, and saving elephants becomes reality.
Some of the encouraging steps taken in 2013
Tanzania introduces ‘shoot-to-kill’ anti-poaching law October 2013: Shoot-to-kill law to tackle Tanzania’s losing 30 to 70 elephants every day to poachers. The law was repealed the following month; its success however could be measured by the sharp decline in poaching for the short time it was in effect.
Decline in Cambodian ivory trade gives hope for rest of Asia Thanks to improved anti-poaching measures, stricter law enforcement and penalties, and improving the livelihoods of local rural residents, the ivory trade has declined significantly in Cambodia and no elephants were poached in 2011 or 2012.
Uganda sees a drop in number of elephants poached Reported poaching cases in 2013 dropped to just 11, down from 25 in 2012, largely as a result of substantially improved intelligence gathering and surveillance methods introduced to the Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger force. Also encouraging news is that Uganda will be revising its wildlife bill.
Malaysia Launches National Elephant Conservation Action Plan Nov 2013: The plan provides a focused conservation strategy that lays out specific actions for the next 10 years (2013-2022) with the overall goal of securing viable and ecologically functional elephant populations in Peninsular Malaysia for the next century and beyond.
Ivory stockpile destroyed in US 13 November 2013: Six tons of stockpiled ivory was ground to dust by the US government, sending a clear signal that the illegal ivory trade would not be tolerated. The hope was that other countries would follow. However, the huge stockpile amounted to only about 10% of the total that is smuggled into the US, which is the second largest ivory market in the world after China.
Front Page Story on Ivory Trade Makes Waves in China Nov-Dec 2013: Article on blood ivory and poaching goes viral in China, reaching mainstream media, China’s largest web portals, Weibo, and online discussion forums.
The Independent’s Elephant Appeal Time is Running Out for the World’s Giants Started Dec 2013: Series of excellent articles provide a one-stop resource for understanding the elephant crisis as well as insights into elephant behaviour and society.
Kenya passes Wildlife and Conservation Bill Dec 2013: Kenya passed the presently toughest anti-poaching laws, providing for life imprisonment and crippling fines for poachers, traders and their financiers when convicted in court.
Elephant appeal: UK pledges £10m to fight illegal wildlife trade Dec 2013: The UK government vows to clamp down on the soaring trade in illegal wildlife products such as rhino horn and elephant ivory, pledging £10m to fight wildlife crime.
Clinton Global Initiative – Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants. Sept 2013: Partnership of international conservation groups to save Africa’s elephants, targeting funding to: “stop the killing, stop the trafficking, stop the demand.” This coalition of organizations will work with African leaders to support their governments’ efforts to curb elephant poaching and ivory trafficking.
Elephants start to make remarkable recovery in Chad Dec 2013: Twenty-one new elephant calves have been sighted at Zakouma National Park in the Republic of Chad, marking a turnaround for the park’s beleaguered elephant herds which had been decimated by poaching from 4,000 in 2005 to just 450 in 2010. In late 2010 the park implemented a new anti-poaching strategy and not a single elephant has been hunted in Zalouma in over two years.