Watch "Ivory Wars" aired by our friends at Discovery Channel on Saturday, June 23
Saturday, June 23 is shaping up to be an important day in the global march toward elephant conservation. In Los Angeles, artist Damon Martin will unveil a mural he painted on behalf of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to call attention to, and raise awareness of the plight of elephants. The same evening, Discovery Channel will debut a one-hour special entitled “Ivory Wars,” an investigation into the cruel practice of elephant poaching and the illegal international sale of ivory.
Both events put a spotlight on a species that has experienced severe decline, particularly over the last couple of years. In what was the worst year on record for large-scale ivory seizures, 2011 saw 5,259 elephant tusks—totaling more than 23 tons—seized worldwide, representing the lives of at least 2,629 elephants.
Thus far, 2012 has been equally devastating. Last month, Sri Lankan authorities seized around 350 illegal elephant tusks weighing nearly 1.5 tons at Colombo port, marking the single biggest ivory haul in the island nation’s history. Earlier this year, a tragic killing spree in Cameroon's Bouba Ndjida National Park left half of the park’s elephants dead, slaughtered for their ivory.
If we are to secure a better future for elephants, we must make sure rangers are properly trained and equipped to protect elephants from poaching; that customs officers are able to identify and arrest wildlife smugglers; and that decision makers and politicians support elephant protection efforts. I encourage people around the world to demand that their governments oppose any further international trade of ivory, tighten control of all ivory markets, and help range states protect elephants where they live.
It is my hope that the events of June 23 will act as a wake-up call for people in the U.S. and around the world that now is the time to take action. Without immediate and concentrated efforts to save this species, we risk going back to the ivory wars of the 1980s – only Africa’s elephant populations may not be lucky enough to escape extinction this time around.