The good and the bad of internationalism

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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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime