The Good and the Bad of Internationalism

Every piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant. I am a big fan of internationalism and watching the recent opening ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympics reminded me why. What an uplifting experience to see nations of varied culture, language and religion come together through a common goal. I spent a large part of my life living in London and watching the parade, I felt proud, but not just as an ex-Londoner, as  a citizen of the world too!

Earlier this month another such coming together took place and although it was with a lot less pomp and ceremony than that of an Olympics, it was still quite a momentous occasion. The names of almost 290,000 IFAW supporters across Europe, Australia and the U.S. who had said no to ivory trade via petition cards, online petitions and emails, were delivered to government officials demanding action to save elephants from poaching and illegal ivory trade. You can see some of the highlights of the handover and read about why the voice of elephant lovers across the world needs to be heard now.

Riding high on the coattails of this international positivity, I was particularly disheartened to read this week’s Auckland Now report of 69 pieces of illegally imported elephant ivory being seized in neighboring New Zealand. The government's Wildlife Enforcement Group (WEG) seized the ivory when they raided premises in the eastern North Island town of Napier on Wednesday. WEG raided the property after a carved elephant tusk, mailed from France and bound for the property, was intercepted at the International Mail Centre in Auckland.

This incident is remarkable in its similarities to another seizure which I wrote about last November, which also involved ivory being sent from Europe to New Zealand. In that post I asked if New Zealand was a new destination for illegal ivory trade. If it is, it is one more country to add to a growing list of deadly destinations and is right in our own backyard.It seems that the demand for ivory knows no borders and the current surge in demand in Asia is spilling over into other countries and continents.

And just as global phenomena can have a positive impact; they can also have a devastating effect, especially in the animal world.   Skyrocketing demand for ivory in Asia and inadequate regulation and enforcement of legal markets have fuelled a poaching crisis. In 2011, more than 23 tonnes of illegal elephant ivory were seized, from at least 5,000 dead elephants, although these seizures represent just the tip of the iceberg so the actual number of elephants being killed for their ivory will, in reality, be much higher. 2012 is shaping up to be no different, and for the first time in many years, widespread elephant poaching is being reported across the entire elephant range in Africa, including among populations in Southern Africa that were previously thought to be safe.

Congratulations to the New Zealand Wildlife Enforcement Group for this latest seizure. Their continued vigilance is necessary to deter illegal ivory traders and send the message that there is no place for illegal ivory trade in a civilised society. If you want to be part of that message, you can still join the other 290,000 of us from around the world who have recently said no to ivory by joining our elephant march. Every piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant. Let’s send a message to global leaders that the cruel ivory trade has to stop.

P.S. If you want to know more about the work IFAW does to support enforcement officers in our region and around the world, you can read about it here.

-- MC  

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia