What is the 96 Elephants campaign?
96 Elephants is a broad coalition of more than 150 zoos, aquariums and partners coming together to coordinate and leverage their collective influence, constituencies and resources to help save African elephants from extinction. Our common goals are to secure legislation that will create a moratorium on ivory sales within each state (including Washington), raise funds to bolster elephant protection and educate the public about the link between ivory consumption and elephant killing.
In 2012 alone, poachers killed approximately 35,000 African elephants. At this rate, we lose 96 elephants in Africa every day—the chilling statistic behind the campaign’s name.
Woodland Park Zoo is proud to join Wildlife Conservation Society and our many 96 Elephants partners to stop the killing, stop the demand and stop the trade. Join the herd: take the simple step to sign the pledge never to buy, sell or trade ivory.
What is the status of elephants in the wild?
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the largest global environmental organization with over 1,200 international member organizations, lists the African elephant as vulnerable and the Asian elephant as endangered.
The accelerating decline in the African elephant population is alarming and stems largely from rapid growth in global consumer demand for ivory. In 1989, 1.2 million African elephants existed. Today, only 420,000 remain. If the slaughter continues at the current rate of about 35,000 elephants killed per year, African forest elephants will face extinction in 10 years. East Africa’s savanna elephants will not be far behind.
Over the last century, the Asian elephant population has dropped from 200,000 to 50,000 individuals. What’s more, these populations have suffered a 70 percent loss of critical habitat. Human population growth, additional habitat loss and retaliation killing from human conflict (such as when elephants raid crops or trample villages) threaten the remaining Asian elephants.
What is Woodland Park Zoo doing to help save wild elephants?
Woodland Park Zoo’s elephants serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts, building our visitor’s understanding for the urgent need to protect elephants.
Here at home, WPZ strives to educate zoo visitors about the rapid decline of elephants, but we also support action in range countries. We have invested more than $300,000 in wild elephant research and conservation action.
Tarangire Elephant Project: WPZ funds and supports the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Tarangire Elephant Project in Tanzania, led by Charles and Laura Foley. This project studies and protects more than 1,000 elephants living in the Tarangire ecosystem, a 4.9 million-acre region in northern Tanzania. In the last five years, 50 percent of elephants living in Tanzania have been killed for ivory, but the Tarangire herd has survived and remains relatively safe. This success is due to protection strategies implemented ahead of the wave of poaching. The Tarangire Elephant Project demonstrates that with effective policies, sufficient resources and well-protected reserves, elephants can survive.
Hutan Asian Elephant Conservation Project: WPZ funds and supports the non-governmental organization Hutan and its work to conserve the Bornean elephant (the most endangered subspecies of Asian elephant) in the lower Kinabatangan River floodplain of northeast Borneo, where 300 of the remaining 2,000 Bornean elephants live. In recent years, Hutan has built an effective elephant response unit that addresses cases of human-elephant conflict, always seeking to find solutions for people and elephants. In 2011, Hutan’s elephant research and experience proved especially valuable by helping government officials and Malaysian conservationists write a Bornean Elephant Conservation Action Plan.
Isn’t ivory trade already illegal?
Ivory trade laws are very complicated. In 1989, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) banned the international commercial trade in ivory. In the U.S., the import, export, interstate trade and commercial sale of ivory removed from the wild after the CITES ban (and in some cases even earlier) is illegal, with a few exceptions. In many cases, documented ivory predating the 1989 ban (called “pre-convention” ivory) can be traded. However, laws vary by state and by species.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides a FAQ for understanding the recent changes in federal law.
State-by-state moratoria on ivory sales are necessary to truly stop the demand and market for ivory. Woodland Park Zoo is joining the 96 Elephants campaign to coordinate action in Washington state and work with elected officials to potentially develop legislation for a moratorium.
Isn’t the recent federal ban on exporting and importing ivory good enough?
In February 2014, the Obama Administration took momentous steps to combat wildlife trafficking by enacting legislation that prohibits nearly all commercial imports, exports and domestic sales of ivory. Additionally, federal departments and agencies have undertaken the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, which provides guidelines to strengthen domestic and global enforcement of the law. We applaud these federal efforts.
Unfortunately, varying levels of legal domestic ivory trade in the U.S, provide a cover for ivory traffickers and make enforcement difficult, thus creating a thriving black market. State of Washington legislation to pass a moratorium on ivory sales within the state will help close these loopholes and stop the demand for ivory in our region.
What can Washington State do?
Tell Washington’s elected officials that you want to stop the ivory trade in your state. Sign the pledge to support a state moratorium on ivory sales.
Is there a major demand for ivory in the United States and how does it get here?
According to UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), the U.S. is the second major importer of ivory.
Legal domestic ivory markets are an enforcement challenge and often serve to provide cover for laundering of ivory from illegally killed elephants in Africa. With limited enforcement, minimum penalties and elaborate forgery schemes, traffickers are able to get illegal ivory into the U.S. market. Once ivory is within a state’s borders, it becomes almost impossible to distinguish legal ivory from illegal ivory. As long as demand for ivory remains high and enforcement effort is low, the legal trade will continue to serve as a front and criminal syndicates will continue to drive elephant poaching across Africa.
What drives elephant poaching and harvesting ivory?
According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, few of today’s poachers hunt elephants for subsistence; most are commercially driven, heavily armed criminals. In fact, illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest transnational crime. Ivory—sometimes called “white gold”—helps fund the military operations of notorious terrorist groups.
What makes a piece of ivory “antique?”
To qualify as antique, the item must be at least 100 years old, however, the legal sale of antique ivory creates a significant loophole that benefits the illegal ivory trade. False appraisals abound as appraisers cannot make a true visual assessment and often base their appraisal on the seller’s word. In fact, antique appraisers have no state or federal license requirements. Only clear and unambiguous documentation pertaining to the product’s origin (for example, original U.S. manufacturer’s traceable serial number) and/or radiocarbon dating can truly identify the age of a piece of ivory.
What are other countries and governments doing to stop the ivory trade?
Governments around the world have demonstrated their commitment to end the ivory trade. Since 2011, the U.S., France, Gabon, Chad, China, Kenya, Belgium and the Philippines have all made a public demonstration of their commitment by destroying stockpiles of confiscated ivory, totaling all together more than 32 tons, according to National Geographic. In 2014, the European Parliament passed a landmark resolution that called for a moratorium on all ivory sales, sending a strong message that regulating ivory requires political will.
What is being done on-the-ground to combat poaching?
Conservation organizations around the world are working to put rangers on the ground to stop animal poaching. Anti-poaching activities include radio-collaring elephants, monitoring populations, training and equipping local rangers, confiscating weapons, arresting fleeing poachers and using ivory-sensitive sniffer dogs at key transit points. For example, in 2013, Tarangire Elephant Project, a Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife, expanded patrols to a neighboring wildlife management area in Tanzania that led to the arrest of 10 poachers in two different incidents, and the confiscation of weapons.
What can I do?
Learning about 96 Elephants and the illegal ivory trade is a great start! But there’s more you can do:
- Take the pledge never to buy, sell or trade ivory. On August 12, World Elephant Day, Woodland Park Zoo will gather all of the pledges and deliver them to city and state legislators to tell them their constituents will not stand for being a loophole!
- Tell everyone you know to take the pledge and learn more about 96 Elephants. Use social media and your community networks to ask your friends and family to pledge never to buy, sell or trade ivory.
- Keep in touch with us by signing up for ZooAction alerts and liking ZooAction on Facebook. We’ll send you updates and ways to get involved as we move forward in our campaign to save elephants.