Who Will Save The Elephants?


by Trevor Neilson

One of the greatest moments of my life was standing at Savute elephant camp in Chobe National Park in Botswana and watching dozens of elephants at a watering hole.

They were massive. Loud. Wholly unconcerned with me or anyone else around them. They made me feel small.

I told myself that someday if I had children I would bring them back to see those elephants. In seeing them my children would understand something about humanity and its place in the world.

I'm starting to wonder if my children will have that opportunity.

A new report has been issued saying that over 100,000 elephants have been killed by poachers in Africa in the last three years.

At this rate the African elephant will soon be gone.

Why is this happening? There are three primary reasons:

1) People want ivory, especially people in China.

There's a huge and increasing demand for ivory in China driven by "tradition" and prices of over $1.300 a pound.

2) Terrorist groups are funded by the illegal sale of ivory.

Al Shabaab, the vicious Somali-based terror group acts as a middleman in the illegal sale of ivory. Some analysts believe that without ivory Al Shabaab couldn't fund its operations and it is estimated that it cost about $200,000 -- the cost of 24 elephant tusks -- for Al Shabaab to plan, prepare, and execute the Westgate mall attack.

3) African countries are poorly equipped to stop the killing.

Impoverished African countries struggle to provide the most basic services, and when confronted with skilled and determined poachers they face significant challenges. Kenya's president recently called poaching a national disaster and while drones and other new technologies are helping the governments struggle to protect animals in rugged and remote terrain they face a difficult fight.

So what can be done?

First, thinking people in China need to stand up and end demand for ivory. Young Chinese in particular have the power to denounce the "tradition" associated with the ivory trade and create a stigma around the ownership of ivory.

Second, the American people need to support our governments efforts to destroy Al-Shabbab. The group pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2012 and is determined to kill as many Americans as possible.

Finally, everyone can support groups like WildAid who work tirelessly on the issue and who's campaigns are beginning to show real results.

We can save Africa's elephants, but only if we make it a priority. I hope my children can see the elephants before it is too late.

This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post