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Elephants Need Your Help

The numbers are simply staggering. It has been estimated that, in recent years, poachers have slaughtered African elephants at a rate of 35,000 per year—about 96 elephants a day. Researchers believe that Africa’s savannah elephants and their smaller forest cousins may be extinct within two decades.

The Chicago Zoological Society is partnering with more than 100 other accredited zoos and aquariums and the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society in a new program called the 96 Elephants Campaign. The goals are to educate people about this crisis; halt the sale of elephant ivory, whose demand leads to poaching; and most importantly, prevent the killing of elephants in the first place. Despite the fact that elephants have not lived at Brookfield Zoo for several years, the Chicago Zoological Society has taken a leading role in 96 Elephants in a big way because we believe that these magnificent animals must be saved in the wild.

The United States has the second largest market for ivory in the world. Fortunately, the federal government is not unaware of what is happening. The Obama administration recently made a positive move, announcing in February that it has instituted a “National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.” It has also banned the commercial trade of elephant ivory, although citizens may still own and pass on heirlooms to descendants.

The ban includes the following stipulations.
  • All imports of African elephant ivory, including antiques, are illegal.
  • Only certified ivory antiques may be exported.
  • Only certified antiques may be sold across state lines.
  • Within states, the sale of only ivory items legally imported prior to 1990 and 1975 for African and Asian elephants, respectively, is allowed.
96elephants_215x170.jpgDespite the federal ban, loopholes remain, not least of which are the above allowances for antique ivory, which is difficult to date. The concern is that illegal ivory will still trickle into the United States. The government is looking for a two-tiered system of enforcement—one at the federal level and one at the state level.

The strength of the Chicago Zoological Society is in raising awareness about the alarming rate at which African elephants are being poached and encouraging lawmakers to eliminate the significant enforcement challenges posed by the ivory trade. (See the box below for information on how you can make your voice heard.)

Besides the federal authorities, we and the 96 Elephants Campaign are also collaborating with the Clinton Global Initiative’s “Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants,” which was announced last September. The partnership’s focus is to “stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand,” as its motto goes, by supporting African government leaders in their efforts to curb poaching and trafficking.

All of this effort by such significant organizations is not just about saving elephants. It’s also about national security. The money made from ivory poaching is tied to the illegal drugs and arms industries, which fuel terrorism and organized crime.

But saving animals in trouble, such as elephants, is what we do best. You can help us by becoming a guardian to one of the most beloved species on the planet. Please make your opinion heard.

Take the Pledge
Learn about the plight of elephants in the wild and support the movement by taking the pledge at www.96elephants.org. Tell your friends and colleagues: together we can reduce demand for poached ivory and shut down the trade. Americans need to act to save elephants from illegal slaughter—and this is our chance!