Elephant ivory campaign ribbons benefit Cape Town NGOs

Tuesday, 13 September, 2011
Cape Town, South Africa
Elephants haven’t roamed free in Cape Town in hundreds of years, but a campaign to save elephants from ivory poaching has put the giant pachyderms firmly on the map as local NGOs hand-sew over 100,000 elephant awareness ribbons for international distribution.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW www.ifaw.org) is working with Learn to Earn (www.learntoearn.org.za), the Western Cape-based skills training and job creation organisation, which roped in 10 other non-profits to make the ribbons providing work to over 200 women from disadvantaged backgrounds and using an astonishing 10 kilometres ribbon so far.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW www.ifaw.org) is working with Learn to Earn (www.learntoearn.org.za), the Western Cape-based skills training and job creation organisation, which roped in 10 other non-profits to make the ribbons providing work to over 200 women from disadvantaged backgrounds and using an astonishing 10 kilometres ribbon so far.

“We could have chosen to have the ribbons factory made elsewhere, but IFAW wanted to ensure that people living on the continent where elephants suffer the most would benefit from sewing the ribbons for our elephant ivory campaign,” said Christina Pretorius, Communications manager for IFAW Southern Africa.

“We looked long and hard for an ngo prepared to tackle the task on a deadline, and Learn to Earn rose to the challenge brilliantly. They coordinated 10 projects to produce an initial 100,000 ribbons, and they are now working on their next consignment for us. The hope is that this is a long term project that will continue to benefit disadvantaged communities long into the future,” she said.

The hand-sewn ribbons which feature grey felt “ears” and a twist of ivory ribbon to represent elephant “tusks” are being distributed throughout the world by IFAW’s offices in the United Kingdom, European Union, the USA and Africa, as an awareness raising exercise of the impact that poaching is having on the world’s elephant populations.

Counting, measuring, recording and developing a comprehensive record of elephant poaching is nearly impossible. The quantities and distances involved render it a Herculean task. Because of this, we are left with anecdotal evidence; stories and accounts which, once combined, can give us great insight into what is happening in the global illegal ivory trade and measure the degree of threat faced by elephants.

It is clear that the threat to elephants is grave. According to ETIS there has been, “a steadily increasing trend in levels of illicit ivory trade in 2004 onwards, with an exceptionally sharp upsurge in 2009….seizures of ivory reached record levels in 2009 and that these levels were largely sustained in 2010.”

Already, 2011 is already shaping up to be a record year for ivory seizures, with at least 4,759 elephant tusks confiscated in the following known major seizures:

On April 1st  Thai officials discovered 247 tusks hidden in a shipment from Kenya, although it is not clear where the ivory originated.

Two weeks later Vietnamese officials seized 122 elephant tusks and a day after that Chinese officials uncovered 707 elephant tusks during a routine inspection.

In early May Kenyan authorities uncovered 84 elephant tusks at Nairobi airport.

In June a further 22 elephants were poached in the Congo Basin bringing the known total there to at least 77 elephants killed so far in 2011.

On July 8th Malaysian officials seized 405 elephant tusks.

On July 26th US Fish and Wildlife Officers made their biggest-ever bust in Philadelphia of almost 1,000 kg of ivory, representing hundreds of tusks.

An August 12th report highlighted a 50 per cent increase between 2004 and 2011 in the number of ivory items on sale in ivory factories and retail outlets in Guangzhou, China most of which lacked any proper identification. Guangzhou is the largest city in southern China and an important ivory centre.

A week after that report a China-bound shipment from Tanzania was seized in Malaysia with 664 elephant tusks.

1,041 elephant tusks bound for Malaysia were seized in Zanzibar on August 23rd.

The following week officials in Hong Kong SAR of China seized 794 African elephant tusks on a shipment from Malaysia. That same week officials in Malaysia seized 695 elephant tusks that had come from Tanzania and were bound for China.

On September 2nd Zambian police stopped a vehicle with diplomatic number plates headed towards the Democratic Republic of Congo with “166 pieces of ivory worth billions of Kwacha” (1B Kwacha = ZAR1,490,000 or €149,000).

Individually these seizures illustrate a thriving illegal trade in ivory. Collectively they represent a threat to the very survival of elephants in parts of Africa and Asia.

About IFAW:

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Learn to Earn:

Learn to Earn (LtE), is a skills development and job creation non-profit organisation situated in the Western Cape (Khayelitsha and Hermanus), with national impact via the Association Network. Since the inception in 1989, LtE has trained more than 9,000 unemployed adults in market-relevant skills. With the motto of ‘a hand up – not a hand out,’ LtE seeks to develop people, especially unemployed people, socially, economically, emotionally and spiritually. The vision is ‘to eradicate unemployment and other legacies of injustice in South Africa and Africa’. For more info visit www.learntoearn.org.za or Learn to Earn South Africa Facebook page.

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Christina Pretorius (IFAW Southern Africa)
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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Joseph Okori
Regional Director, Southern Africa and Program Director, Landscape Conservation
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
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Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
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Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
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