Saving elephants by cutting the illegal ivory supply chain

A recent Sky TV HD video overview report on the ivory trade.

The illegal ivory trade starts with the slaughter of elephants, continues with wildlife traffickers smuggling ivory across international borders and ends with the under-the-counter sale of carvings, signature stamps and trinkets, in marketplaces in Asia and online.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare is working to cut the supply chain at all its major touch points by training rangers in anti-poaching techniques, lobbying politicians to take action to block the sale of ivory, collaborating with customs and law enforcement authorities to arrest black-market sellers and reducing consumer demand through out the world, especially China, one of the largest consumers of wildlife products including ivory.

In mid-February, we learned that poachers from Sudan in Central Africa were slaughtering elephants by the hundreds in Cameroon’s Bouba Njida National Park. Yet, officials in the Cameroon government, who were aware of the poaching, were sitting on their hands.

International Fund for Animal Welfare Director France and Francophone Africa, Céline Sissler-Bienvenu with the body of an elephant slaughtered for its ivory in Cameroon in recent weeks.In early March, Céline Sissler-Bienvenu and Julie Landry, from our French office, flew into Cameroon with a French TV crew to investigate and conduct an aerial survey. Céline and Julie also sat down with the Minister of Forests and Wildlife and his counterpart in Defence and urged them to act quickly. With IFAW’s focusing the world’s spotlight on them, the government was finally forced into action.

Three hundred soldiers, a helicopter and three ultra-light aircraft from the national army entered Bouba Ndjida to stop the massacre. The poachers may have fled the park. We don’t know for sure because of the park’s size.

Almost 300 elephant carcasses have been counted in the aerial survey. The numbers of dead elephants may be significantly higher. Villagers in the area reported that poachers claimed to have killed 650 elephants.

With the slaughter in Cameroon as a backdrop, last week, INTERPOL, with funding from IFAW, tackled the illegal trade of ivory and rhino horn with the largest-ever African wildlife crime operation in 14 countries in East, West and Southern Africa.

Code-named, Operation WORTHY, initial reports indicated this crackdown resulted in arrests of several dozen people and the recovery of more than 250 kg of raw ivory, lion and leopard pelts, python and crocodile skins and live birds.  Illegal firearms and other contraband were also seized.

Operation WORTHY follows another IFAW-funded program, an INTERPOL-coordinated wildlife crime enforcement training program conducted in cooperation with Environment Canada. The training focused on multi-agency cooperation and the benefits of coordinating the law enforcement resources of several African countries.

Work on the front lines of illegal trade is essential to protecting wildlife, but IFAW understands we can never protect wildlife everywhere unless we reduce consumer demand for those products. IFAW’s Asia office has worked for years to reduce demand for wildlife products in China.

The Chinese "Mom, I got teeth" campaign creative.

Recently, in an interview with National Public Radio, Grace Ge Gabriel, Director of IFAW Asia, pointed out that IFAW monitors found there were many suspected illegal ivory listings on, one of China’s largest search engines. I am glad to report to you that based on information supplied by IFAW, Baidu is investigating and removing postings of illegal wildlife products.

Baidu shut down 13 forums engaging in the illegal trade of ivory, tiger bone, rhino horn, sea tortoise shell, and other derivatives and in live animals. Baidu also wiped 11 forums clean of any discussion related to banned species. In all, Baidu deleted 34,685 postings and is working with IFAW to find other ways to combat illegal online wildlife trade.

China is one of the largest consumers of wildlife products and an IFAW study found that 70 percent of Chinese consumers did not know that elephants were killed for ivory. Some thought elephants may lose tusks like people lose teeth. In Chinese, “ivory” means “elephant tooth.”

IFAW’s “Mom, I got teeth” ad campaign explains that ivory products only come from dead elephants and encourages people to reject ivory products.

These adverts are just one aspect of our ivory demand reduction work in China, but they have been extremely effective. They have been displayed in subways, airports and other high traffic areas. And now, they are included in a curriculum on animal welfare education. In June 2011, they were used by Zhejiang Education Bureau in the Chinese language portion of the National College Entrance Exams, which in that province was taken by nearly 300,000 students this past June. Now, every one of those 300,000 exam takers in Zhejiang understands the connection between ivory trade and the killing of elephants. If the ads become adopted in the college exams across the country, we could reach more than 9 million high-school graduates each year.


Take action now and add your name to IFAW's Say 'NO!' to ivory petition by clicking here.

Download the IFAW Ivory Trade Fact Sheet here.

Comments: 10

6 years ago

i support IFAW and have done for years the sale of ivory should be banned anyone buying ivory should be punished by prison

6 years ago

I googled ivory & found companies who are selling it on
The internet, as well as rhino products. What can I do
to stop this? Anything?

6 years ago

I really appreciate what you are doing to stop the cruelty imposed upon these animals, they cannot defend themselves.

I challenge every person who has posted a comment to give what money you can to support IFAW

I may be a continent away from whats happening, but I know I by making people aware, and giving money to help, I may be saving at least one animals life.

There is power in numbers. Some of my friends tell me it is too painful to look at the pictures, read the articles. I force myself to do it, it keeps me motivated.

Fight the good fight, do whats right.

Thank you IFAW


6 years ago

I do so love elephants. I was lucky enough to be able to spend a few hours with one many years ago, even rode one once although now I see it was wrong for this fair to have an elephant or the road side zoo either. I would not leave this poor elephant's side until I was physically dragged away. She was so lonely. and just swayed to and fro since she was chained she could do nothing else. In North Carolina about twenty years ago she was hawked as the oldest living elephant in captivity in the U.S. Heaven only knows what that magnificent beast had endured in her long lifetime. But she was sweet to me and seemed so grateful for the constant stoking and attention I was giving her.She broke my heart. I will never forget her, or the helplessness I felt at not being able to do anything to help her. We must put an end to this even if it means we will never be able to be that close to them ever again. They must be allowed to roam free, naturally, and in safety--as God intended they should.

6 years ago

Please begin also to create a Thai campain against the Ivory trade!!

6 years ago

The supply chain has to be cut. There's hardly a single species of bird or animals that is not abused and traded by humans. The barbaric mass slaughter of elephants must serve as an eye-opener to the nations. Then only the sacrifice of so many innocent elephants will not go in vain.

6 years ago

It is a real disaster to kill all elephants for their tusks. Only because owning tusks seems to give a social status. When all the elephants have been killed, there'll be no tusks left, anyway. It really hurts to see those majestic and so peaceful animals treated the way they are.

6 years ago

It's high time the ivory supply chain were cut. Elephants pay a horrible tribute to the snobbishness according to which it gives you a social status to have enough money to buy tusks. When there are no elephants left, it will be a bit late to think of the consequences of man's greed.

6 years ago

this is absolutely disgusting. You certainly have my support..

5 years ago

comment les africains peuvent tils vivre heureux avec sur la conscience la mort de tant d animaux si beaux, si majestueux, symbole de cette Afrique que lon voudrait juste et bonne, .pourquoi ce peuple accepte til que lon vienne piller sa faune, cette faune que lon ne rencontre nulle part ailleurs, assassiner tant d éléphants que c si lache...ces animaux semblent si intelligents, plus surement que leurs assassins,...on peut se demander quel est le reve de l africain ? manger de la viande de singe ou d éléphants ? ...encore aujourd hui je me pose la question...Henriette

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Joseph Okori
Regional Director, Southern Africa and Program Director, Landscape Conservation
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
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy