By John F. Calvelli
At the Clinton Global Initiative’s Annual Meeting today, the Wildlife Conservation Society reported a number of encouraging gains achieved over the past year in the fight to save Africa’s elephants. Those include the successful 96 Elephants campaign in the United States, social media outreach efforts in China, and the newly passed New York and New Jersey State bans on ivory.
Having worked closely with Secretary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton to implement the commitment undertaken at last year’s CGI meetings, I must express my great appreciation for their dedication in protecting African elephant populations. We are deeply encouraged by the progress we have made and delighted to welcome several new governments to the cause this year from Asia, where the high demand for ivory is a leading contributing factor to the current crisis.
Shortly after the initiation of CGI’s Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants one year ago, WCS launched the 96 Elephants campaign, named for the estimated number of elephants killed illegally in Africa every day. The campaign has focused on securing effective U.S. moratorium laws, bolstering elephant protection with additional funding, and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the slaughter of elephants.
Click here to see a video on this national campaign, bolstered by more than 160 partners.
Noteworthy accomplishments by WCS in the field and with partners through the 96 Elephants campaign over the past year include:
- The direct protection of elephants in 15 protected areas across Africa, estimated to contain some 45,000 elephants (approximately 69 percent of all forest elephants and 10 percent of all savannah elephants).
- The deployment of the law enforcement monitoring program SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) in 21 elephant landscapes across Africa. SMART uses state-of-the-art GPS-based tracking and reporting systems to increase the effectiveness of ranger patrols.
- The development of a WCS Africa/Asia transcontinental wildlife trafficking strategy with a major focus on ivory trafficking.
- Online engagement activities in China designed to make elephants and ivory a top environmental topic in the country. By 2016 we hope to drastically reduce consumer demand for ivory with support of the Chinese government.
- The generation of 151,648 online interactions on elephants and ivory-related issues as part of various online campaigns in China.
- Online pledge on Sina Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) of more than 1,200 Chinese travelers going through Guangzhou City’s international airport to “Bring No Ivory Home.”
- The establishment of a key partnership with The Travel Channel in China and the production of a TV series on Africa focusing on elephant conservation and anti-ivory messaging. Filmed in both Tanzania and Beijing in June 2014, the program will launch with an accompanying online media promotion campaign.
- The launching of a Chinese-language website on elephants and ivory, the first such resource available in China. Jiudaxiang.org now serves as the go-to site for the Chinese public, decision-makers, NGOs, and academics seeking authoritative Chinese-language information on elephants and ivory.
- The engagement of more than 160 coalition partners, including 118 Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) member institutions, which has resulted in 391,970 constituent actions taken on behalf of WCS and/or the 96 Elephants campaign, and sending a combined 672,585 emails to NY State legislators, Governor Cuomo, Congress, President Obama, and Interior Sec. Jewell. This number includes 72,979 social media actions and 33,274 petitions, drawings, and letters collected in and around the WCS zoos and aquarium.
- Extensive coordination with other organizations to secure ivory trade bans in New York and New Jersey, and to ensure a strong federal ban.
- Social media activity generated by 96 Elephants in 142 countries around the world.
For 2014, the Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants has expanded into The Elephant Action Network. Commitment makers-include: African People and Wildlife; African Wildlife Foundation; Animal Planet; Conservation International; Frankfurt Zoological Society; International Fund for Animal Welfare; International Rangers Federation; INTERPOL; MADE for New York Fashion Week; SAFE; Save the Elephants; The Stimson Center; The Nature Conservancy; Wildlife Conservation Society; and World Wildlife Fund.
The Elephant Action Network will support governments in identifying and implementing priority actions to combat trafficking in elephant ivory. These include: stringent enforcement measures in landscapes containing elephant populations across Africa; complementary actions to strengthen enforcement capacity at ports and markets; intelligence-led crackdowns on illicit networks; securing ivory stockpiles; and reform of laws and penalties to rapidly reduce trafficking.
In an effort to raise awareness of the ivory trade and its impact on Africa’s elephants, the network will work with governments and other stakeholders in priority consumer countries to reduce demand through a variety of measures that include public awareness campaigns linking the purchase of ivory products to the poaching crisis. The network will also highlight legal penalties for people involved in smuggling or illegal trade of ivory. The overall aim is to change perceptions and purchasing practices.
We look forward to our continued work with the Clinton Global Initiative to build on last year’s accomplishments and see these new critical measures through to success.
John F. Calvelli is Executive Vice President for Public Affairs at the Wildlife Conservation Society.