Some positive measures

    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.


    … and in 2014 – the Year of the Elephant

    Will 2014 be the year the tide turns for elephants? Positive international momentum is gaining for Africa’s wildlife, and it’s up to all countries involved to show the commitment and political will needed at this 11th hour …

    And up to all of us to keep that momentum going and keeping the pressure up – by writing our government representatives, being involved in campaigns, showing up at demo’s, and spreading information about the crisis.

    Great Elephant Census  Starting in 2014: Major initiative to conserve African elephant population. This census is the largest pan-Africa aerial survey since the 1970s and will be managed by the Botswana-based charity Elephants Without Borders with $7 million in funding from Paul G. Allen.

    China destroys some ivory stocks  6 January 2014: In an encouraging start to the year, China publicly destroyed 6 tons of ivory. While largely symbolic (and only a fraction of its massive stockpiles), and considered by many as no more than a PR stunt, the move was welcomed by the international community as sending a strong message about China’s aim to end poaching for the illegal ivory trade. Unfortunately, it did not follow up this move with any concrete measures, funding, or ivory bans at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Summit in London in February.

    European Parliament takes action against illegal wildlife trade  15 January, 2014: The European Parliament took strong action against illegal poaching in passing a ground-breaking resolution on wildlife trafficking that calls for moratoria on ivory trade and other measures against wildlife crime.

    France destroys 3 tons of ivory  On 6 February 2014 France became the first European country to destroy some of it ivory stockpile.

    International Summit on the Illegal Wildlife Trade  12-13 February 2014: The highest-level conference held on the illegal wildlife trade, this global summit produced a number of positive measures to combat poaching and the ivory trade. Forty-six countries and 11 UN organizations signed the London Declaration. Additionally, five countries signed up to the Elephant Protection Initiative, which included a 10-year moratorium on any trade in ivory products.

    USA bans ivory trade in major move to fight illegal wildlife poaching and trafficking  February 2014: For the first time, the United States announced a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking and a ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory – with some exceptions however. While these federal efforts are a major step in ending the ivory trade, the collaboration of each state is critical to ensuring that the sale of ivory is comprehensively banned in the US.

    Prince William wants ‘all royal ivory destroyed’   Feb 2014: In a move welcomed by wildlife and conservation groups, Prince William announced that all ivory would be stripped from Buckingham Palace and destroyed (around 1,200 items in the royal collection).

    Hong Kong to burn 95% of its ivory stockpile  Starting in the first half of 2014, Hong Kong will destroy around 33 tonnes of seized ivory, in a unanimous decision by the Endangered Species Advisory Committee. This amounts to 95% of its total stockpile. 

    Chad burns its ivory stockpile  22 February 2014: The destruction marks Chad’s commitment to combatting the rampant elephant poaching that has reduced the region’s once thriving elephant population of 50,000 50 years ago to around 1,500 today.  Chad’s commitment is paying off: intensive anti-poaching measures have resulted in not a single elephant being poached in Zakouma since 2010. This success, combined with the destruction of its ivory stocks, puts Chad at the top of the league for an African country protecting its elephants – and other countries would do well to learn from and follow its example.

    China’s Top Business Leaders Say No to Ivory  26 February: Business leaders in China take a public stand against the ivory trade by signing a pledge to never purchase, possess, or give ivory as a gift. WildAid China Chair, Huang Nubo, spearheaded the effort by 36 prominent Chinese to raise awareness of the ivory poaching crisis.

    Yao Ming asks China to ban ivory sales  3 March: Yao Ming delivered a petition at the opening session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) asking China’s government to ban sales of ivory.

    Nepal celebrates zero poaching year!  3 March: Nepal has added a new milestone in conservation by achieving zero poaching of rhinos, tigers and elephants for the year period ending in February 2014. A second year of zero poaching is the result of strengthened protection and enforcement efforts led by the government and supported by its conservation partners such as WWF and the National Trust for Nature Conservation. A major success story, which was achieved by “the greater coordination between park authorities, Nepal Army, Nepal Police and local communities. The newly developed Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and the establishment of its 16 district cells together with the Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police has helped create the needed balance between central and local level enforcement to curb wildlife crimes.”  A model template for how it CAN BE DONE?

    First Ever Fatwa Issued Against Wildlife Trafficking  5 March: Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body has issued a fatwa, or edict, against illegal wildlife trafficking. This unprecedented step by the Indonesian Council of Ulama, in the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, declares illegal hunting or illegal trading of endangered species to be haram (forbidden). The fatwa requires Indonesia’s 200 million Muslims to take an active role in protecting and conserving endangered species, including tigers, rhinos, elephants, and orangutans.

    Fingers off the trigger: Zambia cancels all trophy hunting licences  6 March: Zambian wildlife authorities suspended the tender process for hunting concessions and cancelled all hunting licences for the foreseeable future. Minister Masebo has also banned lion hunting in Zambia completely, stating that wildlife tourism is worth more and is hugely more sustainable than trophy hunting.” YES! Can’t the other African countries with vanishing wildlife and iconic species see this is the only sustainable way to go?


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