By Will Travers
Next week, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service will preside over the destruction of 5.4 tons of seized elephant ivory -- confiscated from nefarious smugglers and other participants in the bloody ivory trade. I applaud the United States government for taking this bold and very public step to show the world that only elephants should wear ivory. And while Kenya and other nations have set piles of ivory ablaze previously, I hope that America's action will spur similar efforts to permanently remove elephant ivory from circulation from other nations worldwide.
Born Free has been on the front lines working to protect elephants from the ivory trade for a quarter century now. I was there in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1989 when the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) put all African elephants on Appendix I, thus prohibiting trade in ivory that is primarily commercial.
But I was also in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1997 when this ivory ban was weakened for Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. The key message I have found through my experience is also a simple one: A uniform and universal prohibition on international trade in elephant ivory is the best way to stop elephant poaching. Ivory becomes taboo in the marketplace. Prices drop. Markets dry up. Poaching diminishes. Populations stabilize. Send a signal that ivory is profitable, and the reverse happens in every regard.
And, after trying to get individuals at the highest levels of government to take notice of the plight elephants continue to face, I am so thrilled that attention has been paid -- from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to President Barack Obama.
Hillary Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, both representing the Clinton Global Initiative, have spearheaded efforts to bolster on-the-ground protection for African elephants across their range. Born Free, with elephant conservation and anti-poaching projects in Kenya, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, and elsewhere, knows first-hand what it takes to protect elephants in the wild, where they belong. More....