By Megan Hansen
As many as 30,000 African elephants are illegally killed each year for their tusks, but one Tiburon resident is determined to save the species and stop the bloodshed. Marty Perlmutter is using his digital media skills to create video clips he hopes will be aired in China, where more than half of the world's ivory is purchased.
Perlmutter, 65, said he woke up out of the blue one morning knowing he had to help the elephants. For the past year, he's been using his free time to create 10- to 30-second videos featuring footage of African elephants with the slogan, "Say No to Ivory," emblazoned across each one. "This is a fever that has come upon me," Perlmutter said. "I just think a world without elephants is not a world worth living in."Wildlife organizations estimate there are fewer than 470,000 African elephants left in the wild, a colossal decline from the 1.3 million that roamed the world in 1979. An increasing demand for ivory in Asian countries and habitat loss are the two major reasons for the waning numbers.
Within the past few years, newly prosperous Chinese citizens have turned out in droves to buy ivory because it's a traditional symbol of wealth and status that they couldn't afford before. This demand by China — the largest consumer of ivory — has fueled the illegal ivory trade.
Perlmutter said he doesn't want to see the majestic elephant poached just so tusks can be turned into figurines, chopsticks or other knickknacks. "I see the elephant as intelligent and sensitive with incredibly deep family connections," Perlmutter said.
When not tutoring math students or teaching at Cogswell Polytechnical College in Sunnyvale, Perlmutter is at the Community Media Center of Marin in San Rafael working on his videos. He's partnered with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, a nonprofit that fosters orphaned elephants and rhinos, to spread his anti-ivory message.
His plan is to have each of the videos translated into Mandarin and Cantonese so they can be aired on television in China and posted on Chinese social media websites. This will involve making connections with the Chinese government and getting official approval. He hopes the videos will create a conversation among young professionals buying up the ivory.
"We have to reach them with something persuasive, human and transcultural that they'll respond to and feel," Perlmutter said. "I'm assuming a large number of Chinese people don't know that elephants don't drop their tusks in the wild like deer drop antlers."
Lucy Read, fundraising and communications officer for the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, said about one-third of the people in China believe tusks are naturally shed. She said education is a huge aspect of the campaign the trust is working on with Perlmutter. More....