Speaking out as one for elephants

If you’re reading the Washington Post or its commuter Express edition today, you will likely notice a full-page open letter to the President signed by some of the most recognizable names and groups in conservation, music, business, and Hollywood.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is proud to have been a leader in assembling this broad-based group of heavy hitters and relevant stakeholders to support the end of US trade in illegal ivory. When such a high-profile group comes together, we know we will be heard.

We must be heard.

With the announcement of the National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking, the Obama Administration made a commitment to end the devastating slaughter of elephants for their ivory and to ensure that United States markets are in no way fostering illegal wildlife trade. IFAW’s own analysis of US policy and border seizure data has shown that the largely unregulated ivory market in the US could be significantly impacting the elephant poaching crisis in Africa, which is resulting in the slaughter of these amazing creatures at an unprecedented rate.

As the administration starts implementing its National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking, it must know that 80 percent of the American people strongly support ending commercial trade in elephant ivory in the US (according to a Beekeeper Group poll, “Nationwide Polling Results on Prohibition of Ivory Sales,” August 6-12, 2013).

Our partners on this letter to the President are just as committed as we are to saving elephants.

Dr. Jane Goodall, whose pioneering work on chimpanzees has revolutionized behavioral science, has long been an outspoken advocate for elephants. She is also the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, which launched the global Roots & Shoots program, an effort that motivates children around the world to become engaged in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. This legendary conservationist is and always will be a strident, compassionate, beloved voice for animals everywhere.

Save elephants. Take action.

We are incredibly fortunate to have actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio as an IFAW honorary board member and ambassador for more than a decade, and a signer to this letter. Leonardo is a powerful voice for endangered wildlife and truly a force in global conservation through his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which he founded in 1998.

We are excited to have worked this initiative alongside World Wildlife Fund, a globally recognized conservation organization with tremendous reach and influence. We joined forces with WWF during US Fish and Wildlife’s massive ivory crush in Denver last year, and we’re thrilled that we are working closely together again.

Another signer, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, has been a long-time partner with IFAW in our conservation and animal welfare efforts, particularly through their generous support from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. We couldn’t be happier that this international company continues to be a corporate leader in saving animals, and is standing alongside us in this fight.

Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton has long been the world’s foremost expert on elephants and their conservation. Additionally, his organization, Save the Elephants, has ardently campaigned for a viable future for elephants and to sustain the beauty and ecological integrity of the places in which they live.

Critical to the coalition is a trio of pertinent stakeholders. Artist Dave Matthews of the world-renowned Dave Matthews Band makes clear that not all guitarists see the need to have ivory material in their instruments; he came to join the letter through his good friend, Dr. Goodall. Guernsey’s Auctioneers, which is vocal in its rejection of ivory from its auctions, is known not only for the largest auction in history (the contents of ocean liner S.S. United States) but for its public sales of Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, and Mickey Mantle memorabilia. Tiffany & Co. is not only the world’s most recognizable purveyor of luxury jewelry and gifts, but also a leader in corporate responsibility and environmental conservation through its Tiffany Foundation.

The other signers of the letter—the African Wildlife Foundation, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Wildlife Conservation Network and the Wildlife Conservation Society—are respected and highly efficient organizations that also are working tirelessly to secure the future of elephants and other species impacted by wildlife crime. We are proud to be on this letter with all of them.

We’d like to say a special thank you to the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation for the generous contribution to help us place this ad to get the attention of policy makers in Washington. 

As the wild populations of elephants hang in the balance, we can find great optimism from such a diverse and powerful group of names and organizations coming together behind this cause. And the US has a vital role to play – both as an ivory consuming country and as a role-model for conservation policy around the world.

We know the ivory rules proposed by the administration can help turn the tide for Africa's elephants, and hopefully this open letter to the President will help show the support needed for him and his administration to stay strong on this issue.


Join us in taking action to save elephants at IFAW.org/ElephantsNeedUs

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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. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
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
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
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy