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.