Some of us who are alive today may never experience seeing an elephant in the wild, but we still know they’re out there. Future generations, on the other hand, may not even get to enjoy that thought, let alone see these gentle giants if drastic measures aren’t taken to stop the poaching crisis.
Despite their massive stature, elephants remain incredibly vulnerable. An estimated 35,000 of them lost their lives to poachers last year alone, while prices for ivory continue to skyrocket. By some estimates they could disappear from the landscape in little more than a decade.
With all the campaigning to save an animal that’s so easy to love and be captivated by, one would think these efforts would make a dent, but poachers continue to take things to new disturbing levels, while heartbreaking stories covering the slaughter continue to make the news.
Just this week, another 91 were found poisoned to death in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. Poachers again resorted to using cyanide as a weapon, spreading it over flat “salt pans,” or natural, mineral-rich salt licks, according to the AP. Sadly in this case the death toll didn’t just include elephants, but also other wild animals who fed on their carcasses. Officials also believe the poison affected two wells that supply nearby watering holes, which will now have to be sealed.
Troubled economies have left wildlife officials who lack staff and equipment unable to tackle the ruthlessness and greed that fuels violent poaching gangs and organized criminal networks on their own and hundreds of rangers have lost their lives in the fight.
Now experts are coming together from around the world to stand up for elephants with the Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants, a new Commitment to Action announced by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) that will bring together wildlife conservation organizations, governments and the public to stop the slaughter.
Their plan includes a pledge of $80 million from public and private funds to support these efforts and involves a three-pronged approach to stop the killing, trafficking and demand.
According to a press release, some of the actions that will be taken include hiring an additional 3,100 park guards at 50 priority elephant sites, strengthening intelligence networks and penalties for violations, training and deploying scent-detection dogs to 10 key transit points, securing ivory stockpiles and hitting 10 big consumer markets with social media campaigns to raise awareness about the true cost of buying ivory to help end the demand.
Government leaders will also be calling on other countries to adopt a trade moratorium on all ivory products. In all, the goal isn’t just to stop the killing of elephants, but to reverse their continued decline.
Conservation organizations that are involved are applauding the new partnerships and hope that bringing so many different fronts together at this scale will make the impact needed to save this species from extinction.
Carter Roberts, President & CEO of World Wildlife Fund, said that what’s been missing in this battle is a united front from governments, NGOs and the private sector and believes that when people have a greater awareness of the consequences of their purchase habits, it can help change their behavior.
Meanwhile we can all help elephants by continuing to spread the word about their plight and refusing to purchase products made from ivory, whether or not they’re pre-ban. It doesn’t matter if an elephant died last week or 50 years ago, one still died. Any transaction that puts money in a sellers hands for ivory continues to fuel this sickening trade.
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