A Brief Summary,

I have always had poaching as a concern of mine, mainly due to my love of elephants more than anything else, but I have to admit, looking into this topic in more detail from a conservationist point of view has just made me more interested in making a change. The facts and the figures speak for themselves; this is a problem, a problem which is gaining rising levels of awareness, but to which a clear solution has yet to be found. The illegal ivory trade is having a devastating effect on wildlife across the continents, not just in regards to elephants and rhinos, and has paved the way for a boom in regards to other cases of animal trafficking as well.

The desire for ivory and for exotic animals and their parts will continue to grow and unless something is done to stop it, the numbers of animals killed to meet that demand will not fall. While there are a lot of human-affecting problems going on in the world right now, from the Ebola outbreak in Africa to the civil rights protests occurring in America currently, I don’t think that the problems which have been caused by humans but which affect creatures other than ourselves should be forgotten. These animals are more than just their parts, and awareness needs to be spread to help people learn about the problems they are facing.

Awareness is growing though. Words of a royal and words of a president will tend to have that affect, and as events like the March for Elephants and Rhinos (which occurs at the start of October each year), hopefully it will continue to spread further.

Do I believe that it is ‘Too Little; Too late’? Personally, no. I think that there is a chance to turn this around, to stop what is occuring in Africa and to put a halt to the ivory trade once and for all… but I think that in order to do that, a mountain of problems have to be overcome. The technology being developed is the best foot forward in the war on blood ivory, in my opinion, and the awareness working alongside that is key as well. But more than that; the largest demand for ivory is originating from China and other Asian Countries (China especially for Elephant tusk, and Vietnam currently as the leader in regards to demand for rhino horn). This demand is due to the culture of the people there, and that is not something that can be ignored. Cultures should be respected, should be understood… but I think education of those who adhere to that culture is a requirement.

People in the western world showing they care is all very well and good, but when Asian countries are holding the demand, don’t you think ordinary people living there need to be shown why they should care as well? I’m not saying that it’s not occurring; the peaceful protests which took place in Hong Kong are proof enough that the awareness is there… but is it enough? Right now, I don’t think it is.

But with help? I think it could be.

I would love to work with elephants again. I have worked with ex-domesticated elephants in Thailand, and next I would love to work with wild Elephants in Africa. I would like to study them, to look more into their fascinating behaviour which I have always been interested them… but more than that, I would like to help save them. This project has made me aware of just what is going in to stopping the poaching crisis, and it has helped me realise just what I could potentially do to help. And I honestly hope that these posts and this blog has helped at least one other person do the same.

Perhaps I’m just selfish, or incredibly passionate about this subject… but I’d rather like to be able to sing ‘Nellie the Elephant’ to my child in ten years time, without them responding with the upsetting question: ‘What’s an elephant?’.

Together We Stand – Black Rhinos with an African Elephant [image credit: wwf]

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Podcast: Poaching Pop Quiz

[image credit: animalnational.com]

Why did I choose to do it like this?

Basically, I decided to interview my friend; a genetics student with a healthy interest in Conservation. I was interested in seeing just how much someone knew about the current goings on in the animal trafficking operations being undertaken around the world, and getting their opinion on what may have been the cause of such a thing.

Ideally, I would have loved to speak to an expert in such matters (either an expert in conservation, or an expert in Elephant behaviour like those I worked with in Thailand), but ultimately I decided that it would be more interesting to get the honest opinion of someone of the general public.

As I believe the key to helping the plight of animals affected by poaching, and other illegal animal trades, is mainly awareness, I wanted to see how much awareness and knowledge about things a regular person had.

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Royal Support for Actions Against the Illegal Animal Trade

Prince William has spoken out, first in an interview with Barack Obama and then in a talk to the World Bank, about the need to work together in order to tackle poaching against rhinos and elephants, calling the currently devastation ‘A loss for all humanity’.

To watch the video on the BBC news website, click here.

In my opinion, having notable figures standing up and taking notice of the situations occurring in Africa is one of the most vital steps needed in combating the problem, and there are few around the world more notable than the British Royal Family (and I’m not just saying that because I am British, honest).  In order to make people, ordinary people, actually sit up and take notice, there have to be figures who attract that attention. It may seem strange, that the Duke of Cambridge is speaking out about such a thing with the American President, neither of whom come from countries which really seem to have an role in the illegal trade of animals and related items at all… but it’s not really.

Poaching is just one form of animal trafficking that is going on in the world right now, after all. The illegal smuggling of living animals in the exotic pet trade is a situation that is still on going (there was a case about the man who managed to get baby tortoises into a country by smuggling them down his pants, wasn’t there?) and in order to raise awareness about where anything animal related has come from (and not just ivory artifacts), there has to be at least one person willing to speak out whom people already listen to.

And I’m pretty sure that Prince William and Barack Obama are people who are able to get others to listen; general public and the leaders of other countries alike.

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Despite the number of elephants and rhinos being killed, is stockpiled ivory being hoarded?

According to Alex Hofford, Hong Kong for Elephants representative who spoke out at a peaceful demonstration against legal ivory sales in Hong Kong, the total amount of legal ivory has only shifted by a few kilos in the past three years. The Hong Kong Government statistics state that apparently, there was 116.5 tonnes in 2011, 118.7 tonnes in 2012, and 117.1 tonnes in 2013.

The stockpiled ivory may not have shifted in regards to figures, but there are a total of 447 ivory license holders in Hong Kong; retailers which are only permitted to trade stockpiled ivory (ivory obtained before the ban 1989), as stipulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Many believe the lack of loss of stockpiled ivory to be due to the creation of a loophole through which freshly poached ivory is laundered by traders into a quasi-legal market in Hong Kong, which provides access to mainland China – the region of the world where the greatest demands exist.

“Hong Kong’s ivory traders have had more than 25 years to clear out their pre-1989 ban ivory stocks,” says Hofford, “But are still holding onto them so that they can provide a cover for new ivory to be sold.”

Is this true? Are thousands of elephants and hundreds of rhinos being killed every year when, in the countries that hold the most demand for their ivory, there are still over one hundred tonnes of ivory stockpiled, under the watch of the government?

{ To read the full story, click here }

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AWF Launches Anti-Poaching Fund!

On the 4th December, a $10 million fund has been announced by the African Wildlife Foundation to be put into targeting poachers. Craig Sholley, the organisation’s vice president for marketing and philanthropy has said that the fund will be used in specific ways: Stop the Killing, Stop the Trafficking, and Stop the Demand.

  • Stop The Killing: Designed to address the poaching occurring on the ground in Africa
  • Stop The Trafficking: Money being put into stopping the illegal wildlife trafficking happening across the country borders and out of the continent.
  • Stop The Demand: Designed to target the large markets in Asian countries

With the money and attention also being put into technology and scientific measures that could be put in place to cut down on poaching, I think this is a really good step forward. It might be the opinion of some that the money could be spent in better situations, such as going towards dealing with the Ebola outbreak currently still raging through Africa… but as money does not work like that, and the funds that a country has have to be split up in certain ways, this is the best of times (in fact, potentially the only possible time) for money to be involved. There is still time left at the moment to make a difference, after all. And making a difference is what is really needed.

The African Wildlife Foundation said about 35,000 elephants are killed every year by poachers. (Credit: AWF)

Photo Credit: AWF

{ click here for the entire story }

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Central Africa has lost 64% of its Elephants in a decade;

100,000 elephants killed between 2010 and 2012, with the peak number of kills occurring in 2011 – where 1 in every 12 elephants was killed by poachers.

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An Inspiration

I had the pleasure of meeting this lady for the span of a few hours in July of 2013; Lek Chailert. A figure leading up elephant rescue and elephant awareness from her position in the Elephant National Park in Thailand. Someone keen to show the world just how wonderful these creatures are, and just how  much of a loss it would be for everyone if they were suddenly all gone.

If I’m going to be honest, I did not know her name before meeting her. I did not know her name until I walked into the Elephant National Park to see a hand painted mural on the wall, a mural painted by school children from one of the nearby villages the Park supports. Her name was there, along with a quote… but I did not think that I would get to meet her. I learnt all about her work, and what she did, and from the stories that other people told about her I knew that she was something of a legend, especially in regards to the people who lived there and who knew her personally. When I did get the chance to meet her, I was overcome with excitement. She gave a talk, one of the nights I was there, on the skywalk in the park with the elephants still going about their nightime walks moving leisurely below us. She spoke about what she had seen, and what she had done, and her words more than anything made me realise just why creatures like elephants need our protection.

Except it’s not just elephants. Don’t get me wrong, she is not called the ‘Elephant Whisperer’ for nothing, but her work does not just stick tight to one species of creatures. In the park, living alongside the herd of elephants, were dogs, almost feral in the way they lived and the packs they formed, rescued from cities like Bangkok during the floods and from illegal traders. Each of the walkways was lined with little huts raised off the ground, in which slept the cats and the kittens; fed by humans, but otherwise left to roam free and be as natural as they were able to be. Peacocks strutted around, escaping their enclosures with a degree of cleverness that I had never seen before in a bird (except for my friend’s budgie, but that’s another story)… and when I was there, three tiny kittens arrived. Days old, found in a nearby village alongside their dead mother, who had been brought to the Park with the knowledge that they would be cared for.

It was, and still is, a place of peace for humans and animals of all kinds, from the large creatures with eyes that sang of unknown ages, right down to the smallest, youngest of creatures who had barely learnt to crawl. And all of it had come from Lek.

Her work has not been made known far outside the Thai borders, but her story is one of inspiration and it is nowhere near being over. The elephants she cares for are not victims of poaching (although the release of one of her elephants, Jungle Boy, was delayed during my stay there due to poaching activity in the land he was set to be released into, and Lek’s refusal to let such a thing happen), but the existence of this sanctuary can be used as an example by like minded people who wish to help those elephants which have survived the Ivory Trade, and those who wish to see no more harmed through it either.

Photo copyright Dani Globetrotter

Photo copyright Dani Globetrotter

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November 21, 2014 · 6:39 pm