By Libby Leyden-Sussler
We've heard about the war on terrorism and the war against drugs, but there is another war that has gone on for decades — the war on poaching — and it's about time we give it just as much attention.
On Sept. 26 in New York City, the Clinton Global Initiative hosted five conservation groups as they gathered to sign a three-year commitment to "Stop the Killing, Stop the Trafficking, Stop the Demand." It is a pact aimed at protecting wildlife, including elephants and rhinoceroses, from poaching and to crack down on the trafficking and demand for ivory.
This summer, I worked for Africa Media in South Africa, a journalism company focused on writing pieces geared toward conservation and environment issues. Wildlife has always been an interest of mine, but I lacked any exposure. The closest I'd ever come to an elephant was from behind the bars at the Bronx Zoo. I was naive about the threat these animals face.
My first assignment this summer was to cover a story about two rhinoceroses, Bonnie and Clyde. Poachers had cut off their horns to sell and they were living on life support. We visited the game lodge where they were staying and what we saw at the emergency veterinarian clinic can only be described with one word: sorrowful.
These majestic, misunderstood animals were hanging their heads low because they were wounded and disfigured, having lost the symbol of their strength and pride. A clean cut left a jarring stub on the snout of their long faces. Luckily, with the care of the veterinarians, Bonnie and Clyde will survive without their horns, but most rhinos and elephants killed for the value of their horns and tusks aren't so fortunate. As I left the lodge that day, there was an eerie quiet suffused with an aura of melancholy and heartbreak. During the next two months, I began to understand the dire need to expose this less-talked-about war.
In 2012, poachers killed an estimated 35,000 elephants and hundreds of rhinos, or an average of about 96 per day, according to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, known as CITES. More....