An important first day. This morning I met with Mary Rice, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency. This organization’s purpose to uncover the aspects of the illegal wildlife trade through undercover investigations and interviews. Once vital information is compiled, it is prepared into reports and films that are shared with government agencies and NGO/conservation organizations. In short, the EIA determines the truth about the ivory trade – vital statistics, how it works, key points of contact, and the bodies of government or other organizations that are involved.
To be able to meet with Mary and absorb 15 years of her experience and investigation work as it relates to African elephants, Kenya and the current poaching crisis is imperative to understanding where a difference can be made. Corruption is involved at all levels and along the entire pathway from Kenya to countries such as China. And the Chinese have creatively created a legal market that has allowed for an illegal market to soar.
Sadly, Africa’s elephants don’t stand a chance against the demand these markets create.
Noteworthy, corruption and demand are not the only troublesome aspects to the crisis. Political jockeying, secret ballots, and payoffs within many levels of the regulatory and conservation industries attribute to the conundrum. At the heart of the issue, is the human ego. We still have not yet learned that by saving others, we can save ourselves. One wonders if we ever will.
Ultimately, it is high political pressure from one country to another that can change the elephant’s fate. Perhaps China’s middle-class will be mortified to learn that they have earned a world-wide reputation as elephant murderers for their chopsticks.
It is chilling to consider that China alone holds the tenure of this magnificent creature here on earth in its hands. And at the current poaching rate, the African elephant only has 8-10 years left.
Educated, humbled, but determined, it is with a new partner that I step into the Kenya landscape and find a way to help. As Mary suggests, “nothing is impossible.” I have no choice but to agree.