Good News for Elephants!

(c) SOS Elephants of Chad

With the news coverage and the political attention that the current elephant poaching crisis has attracted in recent months, it is easy to overlook the good work being done and the positive stories that indicate that working together can yield positive results for elephants.

January 2014

Over the past few decades, the elephant population in Zakouma National Park, one of Chad’s largest protected areas, has plummeted from an estimated 4,000 in 2005 to just 450 individuals in 2010. But now, after three years of intensive anti-poaching work, Zakouma's elephant population is finally on the rise.

In late 2010, a new strategy was implemented to protect these elephants from poachers, which included fitting satellite collars to a number of the elephants. These collars transmit their location every four hours allowing the park rangers to closely monitor the population and increase their understanding of how the herds use the Park and plan their patrols accordingly. These and other measures led to a reported end to the poaching in just two years.

Despite this, the population did not start to increase immediately, with only 5 recorded births between 2010 and 2013. However, in early January this year, a survey of the park's elephants brought encouraging news.  There were twenty-one new calves, representing a significant turning-point for Zakouma's herds.

February 2014

As we know only too well, on the other side of the world, China’s legal domestic trade in ivory continues to undermine the international commercial trade ban by stimulating demand. However, in February over 30 business leaders in China, including Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group, took a public stand against the ivory trade, signing a pledge to never purchase, possess, or give ivory as a gift. To put this into context, the Alibaba Group is a group of internet based e-commerce businesses which, according to The Economist (March 2013), “has come to dominate internet retailing in China” and between just two arms of this group more transactions were recorded in 2012 “than passed through Amazon and eBay combined”.  This pledge came just weeks after the Chinese government crushed more than six tonnes of its ivory stockpile.

In yet another move against the domestic ivory trade in China, Wing On, a Chinese retail giant which owns five stores in Hong Kong, recently banned the sale of all ivory within its stores.

The Born Free Foundation applauds the Ethiopian, Chadian, Botswana, Tanzanian and Gabonese Governments for launching the Elephant Protection Initiative. This Initiative includes an agreement to suspend all consideration of future international ivory trade for a minimum of 10 years and thereafter until African elephant populations are no longer threatened, read more here.

The Indonesian Council of Ulama issued the first ever fatwa (an Islamic religious ruling) on wildlife trafficking, with the aim of safeguarding endangered species. In effect, this requires Indonesia’s Muslim population not only to take no part in wildlife trafficking but to take an active role in protecting and conserving endangered species.

March 2014

Furthermore the ever hastening population decline of the African elephant has started to draw the attention of clerics across the continent. Angered by the poaching of “God’s gifts to nature and a critical part of Africa’s heritage” they have begun enlisting church members and encouraging other African religious leaders to reach out to Asian religious groups in the hope of  raising awareness about the misery caused by the demand for ivory.

April 2014

Finally in April the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the US agency tasked with ‘helping protect a healthy environment for people, fish and wildlife’, announced that the US government was temporarily suspending imports of African elephant trophies from elephants which have been sport hunted in both Tanzania and Zimbabwe during 2014. The decision was made in the light of “questionable management practices”, amongst other things, which have led to uncontrolled poaching and astronomical population declines in Tanzania, as well as large scale poaching in Zimbabwe.

It is now up to all of us to support, enable and follow these examples. You can help by supporting the protection of Ethiopia's threatened elephants.

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