Renewing our commitment on World Elephant Day

At the current rate of elephant poaching in many parts of Africa, this crisis should be a matter of daily concern. World Elephant Day is a good time to reflect on some of the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s priorities to stop the slaughter and provide the space necessary for elephant populations to thrive.

Elephants are being killed because of the insatiable demand for ivory, notably in China. But how do we even begin to deal with this when there is such a strong sociocultural dynamic at play here? How do we change a nation’s attitudes and behaviours, especially where they are steeped in tradition and concerned about social status?

We are fast approaching the tipping point where there won’t be enough time left to make fundamental behaviour change.

Targeted behavioural change campaigns have begun the long-term journey to changing attitudes and behaviours. To make further strides, we look to examples of success with other wildlife trade campaigns, such as the anti-shark finning campaign. A good start would be for the Chinese government to ban ivory in gifting and set a clear example from the top that it is not desirable to own ivory, something akin to the Chinese ban on serving shark fin soup at government functions. This could be backed up by a robust enforcement campaign to support such a ban.

We need to crack the syndicates, shifting the focus from going after the little guys to exposing and dealing with the big guys. It is encouraging to see the level of international attention the crisis is receiving and the heightened international and inter-agency cooperation to clamp down on illicit trade in ivory, far more so than at any point in history.

Lastly, while the trade in ivory poses a real-time, urgent threat to certain elephant populations right now, the chronic threats of habitat loss and conflict with people for space should not be underestimated.

Elephant habitats are becoming increasingly fragmented and human-elephant conflict is becoming a significant concern in many areas. Landscape-level efforts aimed at maintaining viable, stable elephant populations should be prioritised. 

So, today on World Elephant Day, while it might be the time to contemplate what the world will look like for elephants 10, 20, 30 years down the line, we must move to action.  IFAW is working on every link of the ivory trade to stamp out the threat to elephants.  So too are we working to protect core linkages between elephant populations and develop management and land-use plans that promote the harmonious coexistence between elephants and people.

--JB

For more information read IFAW’s online magazine Unveiling the Ivory Trade.

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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