Save The Elephants (STE) will work with government authorities and other nongovernmental organizations in Kenya, and across countries in Africa and in China through the STE/ Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN) Elephant Crisis Fund to contribute to resolving the current ivory crisis that is decimating elephant populations throughout the continent. A three-pronged strategy will be applied: 1) stop the killing: facilitate 'on the ground' anti-poaching enforcement in African range states; 2) stop the trafficking: support efforts to strengthen legislation, law enforcement and judiciary in range states (RS) and monitor unregulated domestic ivory markets; and 3) stop the demand: raise awareness about the impact and risks of ivory sales to the survival of the African elephant, and urge behavioral changes that will reduce consumption in key ivory-consuming countries.
Stop the killing: STE and WCN will facilitate urgent protection of severely threatened elephant populations through expansion of the Elephant Crisis Fund (ECF). The original approach was to invest directly in anti-poaching effectiveness by rapidly disbursing funds to partners where elephant populations have experienced sudden surges in poaching. Now, the funds seeks not only to improve partners' response in terms of equipment and patrols, but also strengthening management systems, developing integrated conservation, and development programs where none exist, and working to reconcile the planning and implementation of development activities with conservation priorities specifically in at risk elephant populations. Also, STE, along with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), will expand efforts to monitor and protect the elephants of Northern Kenya by increasing the number of collars deployed and the ability to track elephants in the region through use of next-generation technology, rapidly alerting authorities of poaching incidences, and fostering sound wildlife conservation management by the local communities in the area.
Stop the trafficking: STE will engage with government authorities to encourage the adoption of domestic ivory sales moratoria and support them in implementing priority actions set forth in the African Elephant Action Plan (AEAP) and pertinent Convention on International trade in Endangered Species (CITES ) of wild flora and fauna resolutions and decisions. STE, along with Stop Ivory and BornFree, will support range states in inventorying and securing government-held ivory stockpiles and urge their destruction to eliminate the risk of these tusks entering the black market. STE will work with scientists to develop and implement cutting-edge technologies to assist law enforcement and Customs to detect illegal ivory flows and accurately determine their age and origin. STE will work with Wildlife Direct to sensitize the Kenyan judiciary to the impact of ivory crime and encourage the full use of the Kenyan Wildlife Act of 2014 to bring ivory criminals to justice. Having partnered with prominent ivory trade experts Dr. Esmond Bradley Martin and Lucy Vigne to monitor domestic ivory markets in Asia, STE have proved that the price of ivory has tripled in China since 2010. They plan to build on studies like these to monitor domestic markets and trafficking routes. These efforts recognize that ivory trafficking and the sale of ivory are problematic globally, and many countries share the responsibility for the crisis.
Stop the demand: STE with WildAid, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) (with support via the ECF), will raise awareness among Chinese citizens including those living in Africa, as China accounts for about 70 percent of the illegal ivory trade, about the impact of the current ivory crisis and the value of living elephants through targeted mass media and social media campaigns. The communications will promote an understanding of the risks and penalties to people involved in trafficking and purchasing ivory. The overall aim is to change perceptions and purchasing practices in order to reduce consumption of and demand for ivory. The ECF will also work on creating legal avenues to a moratorium in Hong Kong, a key ivory transit country.
Stop the killing: STE and WCN will support anti-poaching efforts currently conducted by established wildlife monitoring and protection operations where elephants are severely threatened in CAR (Dzanga Sangha), Gabon (Ivindo), Kenya (Tsavo and Masai Mara), Ethiopia (Babile), and likely Mozambique (Niassa) and Tanzania (likely Selous) through direct funding from the ECF. Funds will be used to increase the number and training of rangers and other field staff, aerial surveillance frequency, and coverage, as well as procurement of vehicles, equipment, and other logistic needs by December 2016. For example, by the end of 2014 STE will gift a field vehicle to KWS and provide financial support for the Tsavo Trust Air Wing for anti-poaching work at Tsavo. A campaign to seek matching funds will be mounted to augment the support going to these operations. Also in Kenya, STE, NRT, KWS, and the TNC will expand population monitoring that supports the local Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants MIKE program by collaring and tracking an additional 40 elephants by the end of 2016. These partners will work in concert to improve the detection and arrests of poachers through the further development and improvement of tracking technology and poaching alert systems for the entire region. STE, NRT, and KWS will also directly engage with the Samburus, Turkanas, Boranas, and Somalis (including ex-poachers) in the region to foster community meetings that exchange local experiences and promote mutual understanding and cooperation. This effort seeks to improve community resiliency, safeguard elephants, and other wildlife heritage, and support the development of existing and new community-run wildlife conservancies.
Stop the trafficking: STE with Stop Ivory will finalize a model protocol for inventorying and sampling government-held ivory stockpiles that fulfills parties' CITES obligations and distribute it to Range States. They will directly facilitate the protocol's implementation and urge Range States to destroy their stockpiles to prevent these tusks from entering into the black market. This work will initially focus on two Range States, with the expectation that it will be used more broadly after initial proof of concept and acceptance. STE will support WildlifeDirect in the ongoing monitoring and analysis of ivory trafficking court cases in Kenya and facilitate the training of the judiciary (i.e. magistrates and prosecutors) in the successful application of the new Kenyan Wildlife Act of 2014. With the passing of this new law and its much stiffer penalties, Kenya's judicial efforts now represent a real test case, and potentially a very successful model, of judicial reform pertaining to wildlife crime in Africa. By December 2016, the organization aims to see the number of criminals found guilty of ivory offenses jailed rise from the current four percent to over 20 percent. STE will seek to form new partnerships with at least one organization that specializes in sniffer dog technology to analyze and boost the effectiveness of this method for detecting illicit ivory in African ports (containers) and airports and increase its application. STE is considering commissioning similar projects in African Range States with unregulated domestic markets as well. By December 2016, STE will contribute scientific expertise and logistical support for a study to expand the application of recently validated isotope methods for aging ivory that will include collaboration with experts in DNA forensic methods for detecting ivory geographic origin.
Stop the demand: By December 2016, STE with WildAid, AWF, UNEP, and Stop Ivory will expand existing ivory demand-reduction campaigns in China and launch new ones by producing new PSAs and documentaries with Chinese celebrities. The aim of these mass media communications is to raise awareness with the Chinese public about the ivory crisis, the value of living elephants and the penalties for ivory trafficking. By December 2016, STE will develop a new Mandarin social media site that also shares this information and fosters engagement in the issue by the Chinese public. STE, and potentially some of its partners in demand reduction, will launch a speaking tour in several Chinese cities to reach even more of the public and build relationships. STE will also seek opportunities to partner with other organizations to help promote these types of messages to Chinese nationals living and traveling in Africa.
The illegal trade in elephant ivory is the primary threat to Africa's elephants and is driving their mass slaughter. Increasing consumer demand for ivory, particularly in Asia, and resulting sky-high prices for worked ivory is driving elephant poaching to devastating, unsustainable levels. Ivory is mainly seen as a long-term investment by China's suddenly wealthy ('baofahu'). It is also used to make religious amulets. For some, it is part of cultural heritage, or may be a sign of prestige, while others believe ivory has medicinal value. In Africa, the poachers not only threaten the lives of elephants, but also the lives of park rangers. At least 1,000 rangers have been killed in the line of duty over the past ten years, as they try to protect elephants and other wildlife. Ivory traffickers are primarily well-organized syndicates that operate as transnational criminal networks and often participate in other illegal activities, including trafficking in narcotics and weapons, with links to terrorist networks.
African elephants are being lost at an unprecedented rate and the demand for ivory shows no decline. Tens of thousands of elephants are being killed illegally every year across Africa with some 35,000 lost in 2012 alone. African forest elephants in particular have been severely affected by poaching and have declined by over 76 percent since 1989; it is estimated that only 80,000 remain in the wild. A major challenge to stopping the ivory trafficking is weak laws and judiciary, as well as ineffective law enforcement controls along the entire trade chain from Africa through the transit states to the end consumer markets. The legal, and often unregulated, domestic ivory markets can fuel the illegal trade by providing cover for laundering of ivory from illegally killed elephants in Africa. Once ivory is within a country's borders, it becomes almost impossible to distinguish legal from illegal ivory. As long as demand for ivory remains high, the legal trade will continue to serve as a front and criminal syndicates will continue to drive elephant poaching across Africa. In order to save elephants, the ivory crisis must be addressed on three fronts: 1) stop the killing; 2) stop the trafficking; and 3) stop the demand.