Changing Planet

Putting an End to the Elephant Crisis

In parts of Africa, elephants known as “giant tuskers” roam the land, their enormous tusks tracing a path in the ground as they walk. Although they sound like something from a fairy tale, these majestic creatures are real. But for our children and theirs, African elephants like these may soon only be seen in photographs or zoos.

Every year, 30,000 elephants are killed for their ivory. According to recent estimates, Africa has fewer than half a million elephants—down from about 10 million only a century ago. The loss of elephants threatens more than just one species —– elephants play an essential role in the ecosystem. As National Geographic recently reported, elephants serve as “nature’s engineers” – when they thrive, other wildlife flourish as well.

The most poignant tragedy of the elephant crisis is that so few people are aware of their plight. These amazing animals are intelligent, highly social, and sensitive, forming deep familial bonds and passing on generations of knowledge about survival to their young.

Resolving the elephant crisis is complicated. The circulation of ivory dates back to the 14th Century, with it being used to make everything from billiard balls to jewelry and piano keys. Despite a worldwide ban on the international trade of ivory in 1989, exemptions to the ban soon followed, continuing the demand for “legal” ivory. Globally, poachers and traffickers have created highly organized criminal networks to kill the animals and smuggle their ivory tusks across borders to sell worldwide. Elephants are also rapidly losing their protective habitats as industries such as agriculture take over the land and leave them at greater risk.

At Tiffany & Co., nature is both a source of design inspiration as well as a key focus of our corporate social responsibility efforts and philanthropy through The Tiffany & Co. Foundation. We feel particularly connected to the issue of African elephants, as we have long been dedicated to the environmental, social and economic wellbeing of Africa, where we source many of our rough diamonds and operate diamond cutting and polishing workshops. As we have deepened our understanding of the threats facing elephants today, we felt compelled to take action.

To that end, Tiffany has partnered with the Elephant Crisis Fund – an initiative of Save the Elephants and the Wildlife Conservation Network – to launch our Tiffany Save the Wild collection, from which 100 percent of the profits will be donated to support anti-poaching, anti-trafficking and ivory demand reduction projects worldwide. The collection features elephant charms and brooches in sterling silver and rose gold accented with diamonds and Tsavorite – a stone which Tiffany introduced in 1974 after it was discovered in a region near Tsavo National Park in Kenya, a stronghold for elephants.

But to save elephants, these efforts need to continue—and grow. I am hopeful that this is only the beginning, and that many more will join the great work already underway. Together, we can end the ivory crisis and ensure elephants continue to walk the Earth for generations to come.

Anisa Kamadoli Costa is the Chief Sustainability Officer for Tiffany & Co., a  member of the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance.

Anisa Kamadoli Costa is a sustainability executive, philanthropy expert and coalition-builder. She is the Chairman and President of The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) at Tiffany & Co., holding two distinct yet synergistic roles that embody Tiffany’s longstanding commitment to environmental and social responsibility. As CSO, Anisa directs Tiffany’s global sustainability agenda, improving global corporate standards, minimizing the company’s environmental impact and driving partnerships across the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Anisa complements this work through her role at the Foundation, where she oversees strategic grantmaking focused on responsible mining and coral conservation. Prior to joining Tiffany & Co., Anisa held positions at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, J.P. Morgan Chase and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Anisa serves on the board of directors of the American Swiss Foundation and Oceans 5, a funder collaborative dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. She’s also a member of the Governance and Nominating Committee of Philanthropy New York, having previously served on its board. Anisa serves on the Advisory Board of the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) as well as Conservation International’s Leadership Council. In addition, Anisa belongs to the Founders’ Circle of the B Team, a nonprofit initiative that aims to reposition private industry as a driving force for social, environmental and economic good. She recently served on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Mining & Metals, and as chair of the board of the Environmental Grantmakers Association. Anisa holds a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College at Columbia University and a master’s degree from Columbia University’s SIPA.
  • Lisa

    wonderful piece- thank you!

  • Fiona

    After reading this fascinating article it made me wonder about how “Tsavorite” stones were mined, in terms of environmental impacts and the restoration of mining sites etc. I found this interesting article from Nat Geo in 2012: “Conservation Gemstones: Beyond Fair Trade?”

  • Bettye House

    It is a shame that part of this problem is from all the outsourcing and the middle class expanding in China. It has become a status symbol to have Ivory in your home and they are willing to pay big money to get the most elaborate pieces. It’s such a shame that a lot of the stores selling this know that some of it is pouched but they don’t care because again in our world making money is what it’s about.
    Thank you Tiffany’s for doing what you can for the elephants. They are such majestic creatures and it’s a shame to see them being killed so badly again. It would also be wonderful if they could stop the killing of elephants and many other animals for sport so they can have a trophy picture.
    Hope many other big names join in on what you’re starting and also help. Also maybe add some other endangered species such as jaguars or tigers so they can all be helped!

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