Saturday, August 19, 2017

Day 407- Remembering Mr. Lotter

In a year where we've seen many positive steps forward in the elephant poaching crisis, Mr. Lotter's death was a devastating loss to the elephant conservationist community.  

South African wildlife conservationist Wayne Lotter was fatally shot this week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  Mr. Lotter was as an advocate for the elephants, and worked to decrease poaching and the illegal ivory trade.  

Jane Goodall mourned his loss, describing him as "a hero of mine, a hero to many."  She went on to say: “There is no doubt in my mind but that Wayne’s anti-poaching efforts made a big difference in the fight to save Tanzania’s elephants from the illegal ivory trade. Moreover his courage in the face of stiff opposition and personal threats, and his determination to keep on fighting, has inspired many, and encouraged them also to keep fighting for wildlife.  If this cowardly shooting was an attempt to bring the work of the PAMS Foundation to an end it will fail."  

Please read the New York Times article below for more information about Mr. Lotter.  

~ ~ ~

Wayne Lotter, a wildlife conservationist from South Africa, was fatally shot this week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where he had worked to stop poaching and the illegal ivory trade, the organization he helped found said. 

Mr. Lotter was killed in a district of the east African country’s capital late on Wednesday, the PAMS Foundation said in its statement on Facebook on Thursday. It said the police in Tanzania were investigating. A report in The Guardian said that Mr. Lotter, 51, was being driven from the airport to his hotel when his taxi was stopped by another vehicle. Two men opened the door to his car, and one of them shot him, the newspaper reported. 

It was not immediately clear from investigators whether Mr. Lotter was killed because of his work. He was one of the founders in 2009 of the PAMS Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports antipoaching efforts in Tanzania through the country’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit, which has been at the forefront in combating poachers and arresting suspects.

Mr. Lotter worked as a ranger as a young man in South Africa before he moved to Tanzania, where he became a leading force in the fight against poaching, the foundation said. It said his work included training village game scouts in every corner of the country, as part of his belief that “communities were the best protectors of the continent’s animals."

Conservationists mourned his death. Jane Goodall, who ventured into the Tanzanian wilderness half a century ago to conduct groundbreaking research on chimpanzees, said in a statement on her foundation’s website on Friday that Mr. Lotter was “a hero of mine, a hero to many."

“There is no doubt in my mind but that Wayne’s anti-poaching efforts made a big difference in the fight to save Tanzania’s elephants from the illegal ivory trade,” Dr. Goodall wrote. “Moreover his courage in the face of stiff opposition and personal threats, and his determination to keep on fighting, has inspired many, and encouraged them also to keep fighting for wildlife.”

“If this cowardly shooting was an attempt to bring the work of the PAMS Foundation to an end it will fail,” she added.

Over the years, poaching has become more militarized as prices for ivory soar. The Tanzanian Serious Crimes investigation unit has arrested high-profile suspects, including Yang Feng Glan, a Chinese woman whom Tanzanian officials call “the ivory queen” responsible for exporting thousands of tons of ivory to China. She has denied the charges, a Reuters report said.

The N.T.S.C.I.U. arrested 1,398 poachers and ivory traffickers with the support of the PAMS Foundation, said the Elephant Crisis Fund, which said Mr. Lotter was a “powerful force taking on the Tanzanian ivory trafficking cartels.”
Tanzania’s elephant population declined because of poaching to 43,000 in 2014 from 109,000 in 2009.

Mr. Lotter had spoken of the risk of fighting poachers. After a pilot was shot dead during a search for signs of poaching near Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park last year, Mr. Lotter told The Times: “The more you go after them, the more situations where confrontation between poachers and rangers will take place. There are going to be risks.”
Mr. Lotter is survived by his wife, Inge; his daughters, Cara Jayne and Tamsin; and his parents, Vera and Charles Lotter, according to the foundation.

Azzedine Downes, the president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said in a statement that Africa had lost one of its most committed conservationists. But he also said Mr. Lotter had a sense of humor that was “second to none.”

At a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species last year, colleagues teased Mr. Lotter because it was the first time they had seen him wearing a tie.
“His response,” Mr. Downes wrote, “was to arrive for a meeting at our International Headquarters in Washington, D.C., wearing two ties, one around his neck and the other on his head.”

-Christine Hauser
The New York Times
August 18, 2017

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Day 406- "We are Failing the Elephants"

Botswana: formerly a region of refuge for wild elephants, now THE front line in the battle against poaching.  Check out this video with CNN's David McKenzie and researcher Mike Chase, a hero who is trying to save the largest land mammal from the sky.  

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Day 405- Happy New Year: China Bans Ivory Trade in 2017

Here's to 2017!

Similar to The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species’ 1989 decision to ban the international trade of ivory, China's new ban will be a huge help to elephant populations globally, as the nation is by far the largest consumer of ivory. 

A 2014 report states that about 90 percent of the illegal ivory seized is destined for China, and estimates suggest that over 63 percent of the ivory sold in China is illegal.

In the 1980s, before the CITES ban, about 100,000 elephants were being slaughtered per year.  In the past decade, about 144,000 elephants have been killed.  These numbers show the impact of the CITES ban.  However, an August 2016 report states that poaching numbers are up 30% compared to 2015. 

As the Chinese middle class grows, it is imperative that ivory does not remain a status symbol.  The new ban is a powerful tool to hopefully change Chinese consumers' tastes.  

In addition, in the 1980s, illegal ivory was not being used as a weapon.  Today, black market ivory is funding terrorism and violence worldwide. This by-product is equally harmful to our global community as the loss of a keystone species in Africa, .  

In the past 10 years, tens of thousands of elephants have been slaughtered across Africa to feed China’s insatiable appetite for ivory. Entire herds from Gabon to Tanzania have disappeared. Even baby elephants have been killed for their tiny stubs of ivory. Scientists have said that the very survival of the species is in China’s hands.

On Friday, after years of denying that China was part of the problem, the Chinese government made a stunning announcement: It would shut down the country’s ivory market, the world’s largest.

Will this save the elephants? This is what experts on the plight of elephants say:

• It all depends on the price. If China simply shuts down its legal ivory trade but does little to combat the much bigger illegal trade, then the price of ivory (now about $500 a pound) will stay high, giving poachers an incentive to keep killing.
• Making all ivory illegal in China could actually push the price up, like illegal drugs.
• Neighboring markets will be crucial. If Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines and others do not take similar steps, then many Chinese will simply buy their ivory from other places, which will keep demand high.
• African elephants face other threats, including habitat destruction and increasingly deadly contact with humans. In Kenya, a truck speeding down a highway recently rammed into an elephant and killed it.
• Many elephants are also hunted for bush meat. China’s new policy will not affect that.
• If the Chinese government really commits to combating the ivory trade, then the price of ivory could collapse. Criminal organizations and poachers will then abandon the business, and Africa’s elephant herds could recover for the first time in years. 

The Early Ivory Trade
Ivory comes from an elephant’s tusks, the equivalent of its incisor teeth. Ivory has been coveted for thousands of years because it is strong, beautiful and relatively easy to carve.
In the 19th century, European nations used ivory for billiard balls, piano keys, buttons, snuffboxes and false teeth. Countless elephants in central Africa were shot down. Joseph Conrad thinly fictionalized the ruthless scramble for ivory in “Heart of Darkness.”
Scientists believe that before the 19th-century ivory craze, more than 10 million elephants roamed the earth. Today, there are about 500,000.

The New Scramble for Ivory
Around 2002, conservationists across Africa started noticing the same thing: a growing proportion of dead elephants with their faces sawed off and tusks missing. At the same time, China’s economy was beginning to boom. In China, ivory is a status symbol, carved into bracelets, bookmarks, shot glasses, statuettes, chopsticks, combs and many other objects. As China’s middle class grew to the hundreds of millions, a new scramble for ivory intensified.
The ivory trade has been abetted by pervasive corruption, extreme poverty and the presence of armed groups in many areas of Africa where the last great elephant herds roam.
Elephants are killed many ways. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, they have been shot by poachers from helicopters. In Kenya, bows and arrows are often used, a quieter method that attracts less attention. In Malawi, poisoned pumpkins are rolled into the road for the elephants to eat. The poachers include subsistence hunters, rebel groups and even American-allied African militaries.

And the threat is not just to elephants. In recent years, African governments have reported that poachers have killed scores of wildlife rangers.

Criminal gangs buy the ivory from poachers and ship it to Asia, bribing government officials along the way. The ivory is sometimes packed with anchovies or chili peppers, to throw off the sniffer dogs used by customs agents and law enforcement officials.

Jeffrey Gettleman
New York Times 
December 30, 2016

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Day 404- Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ- “All Are My Relatives”- Lakota saying

"Our cause is just. What we do today will make a difference for future generations."

- Archambault, leader of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

We celebrate the Army Corp of Engineers' decision to not grant the easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing. 

Whether protecting clean drinking water or endangered species, it is crucial that we stand together and raise our voices for what is right, and for those whose voices cannot be heard. 

Go make a difference!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Day 403- Working With Leo

Coming soon! "The Ivory Game," an exposé on the horrors of the poached ivory black market, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, will soon be available on Netflix. 

Check out the article below!

Photo by Estey Chen

The numbers don’t tell the story, but they’re alarming enough to set it in motion: 150,000 elephants have been killed for ivory in five years; today, one elephant is killed every 15 minutes. At this rate, the African Elephant will go extinct in 15 years. These figures provide a statistical foundation to “The Ivory Game,” a globe-spanning investigative look at a species under serious duress. However, the movie’s real suspense emerges out of the astonishing footage — from the heated battleground of Southern Africa, where elephants face constant threat from poachers, to the black market in China where the goods wind up, “The Ivory Game” reveals the full scope of a human-driven push toward mass extinction. A real-life ecological thriller in the mold of “The Cove” and “Virunga,” directors Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani’s engaging overview makes up for its occasionally scattershot approach with first-rate suspense.
If James Bond turned his attention to animal rights issues, he might find himself in the middle of this hidden war. (It could also provide good material for Leonard DiCaprio, who executive produced.) The film follows countless activists and officers engaged in a clandestine and often dangerous battle with an underground economy. From the wilds of Kenya, where the filmmakers visit scene after scene of mutilated elephant corpses, the movie tracks the problem to backroom dealings in China, where a single kilogram can sell for $3,000 on the black market.
Using concealed cameras — sometimes, though, not concealed enough — the filmmakers capture numerous shady conversations between traders and undercover agents. These tense scenes are matched by similar showdowns in Africa, where officers routinely find poachers in the immediate aftermath of their malicious hunts. The resulting collage of personalities turns “Ivory”into a global war movie in which the survival of humans and elephants alike hangs in balance.
But the film also provides a keen overview of the geopolitical setbacks that continue to keep the ivory business in flux. “One person has the destiny of an entire species in his hands,” says one activist, placing the blame solely in the lap of China’s president — and the film’s revealing footage makes it easy to see why. Despite official regulations limiting the amount of ivory allowed into the country, many traders gleefully flaunt their illegal wares, with few locals willing to speak up. One exception: the determined Hongxiang Chang, a young man driven to upend assumptions about his country’s ambivalence even as he acknowledges the possibility of being deemed a traitor.
Meanwhile, “The Ivory Game” traces the ivory trade back to its grisly source: the gun-wielding poachers roaming through African parks and slaughtering hordes of elephants without any semblance of restraint. While these offenders remain largely off-camera, the film acknowledges some of the broader systematic issues allowing the killing to persevere: In villages where roaming elephants inadvertently destroy farmland, locals welcome hunters the way one might greet an exterminator, prompting activists to intervene with mixed results. Flying high above the African planes, they come across scene after scene of dismembered animals — shriveled under the sun, their corpses become tragic signposts of environmental indifference.
The filmmakers fuse these disparate settings together with sweeping aerial footage, murky nighttime encounters and hidden camera footage alike, providing an immersive collage into every level of interaction that contributes to this international crisis. This approach sometimes leads to an episodic quality that impedes the prospects of getting too invested in any single narrative. However, as an essayistic breakdown of a widely misunderstood threat, it excels at capturing nearly every angle of the equation.
“The Ivory Game” may be a harsh wakeup call to anyone concerned about the future of the largest land mammal, but it’s also a keen evaluation of the efforts being made to correct the situation. Even as it captures a dire situation, Davidson and Ladkani single out a series of engaged personalities risking everything to bring illegal traders to justice — and in some cases, making actual progress. By transforming its urgent message into the sensationalistic language of pulse-pounding blockbuster — replete with dramatic music cues and frantic editing sequences — “The Ivory Game” risks overstating its message, but at the same time it makes the underlying didacticism more palatable. The you-are-there approach to tackling this subject means that “The Ivory Game” largely avoids lecturing its viewers; instead, the harrowing experience speaks for itself.
September 2, 2016

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Day 402- World Elephant Day- Why the World Needs Elephants

In 2012, August 12 was named "World Elephant Day" in honor of the 129,000+ elephants that have been slaughtered for their tusks since 2012.  

Check out "World Elephant Day: Why does the world need elephants?" published by the Christian Science Monitor below! 

Animals lovers around the world are showing their adoration for elephants on Friday, in recognition of World Elephant Day, which has been celebrated on Aug. 12 since 2012.
Despite – or perhaps as a result of – man’s interest in elephant species, their population numbers have witnessed sharp drops in the last few decades.
The organization Born Free suggests that over 129,000 elephants have been poached for their ivory since 2012, and a 2015 report by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) estimates that poaching rates exceed the species’ normal growth rate, meaning that poaching still exists above sustainable levels.
Humans love elephants for their grandeur, human-like emotions, and cognitive capacity. Elephants, however, are to be appreciated and protected for more than just anthropocentric reasons, say ecologists.
Adequate forest preservation requires a healthy elephant population. Because of their appetite and migration patterns, elephants disperse more seeds throughout the forest than any other animal. They also deposit over one ton of dung-fertilizer each week.
“This is why ecologists refer to elephants as mega-gardeners of the forest,” explains The Guardian. They are “sowing the seeds of the trees of tomorrow.”
But on World Elephant Day 2016, there are “grounds for cautious optimism,” as National Geographic reports.
According to a report prepared ahead of the 17th meeting of the Conference of Parties in South Africa in September, the Proportion of Illegally Killed Elephants – or PIKE – has dropped to below five percent for the first time since 2009, evidence that population numbers can recover.
And the price of illegal ivory in China – the country that buys the most ivory each year – has been cut in the half during the last two years, according to a December report by Save the Elephants. Experts attribute this price drop to low demand, proof that public awareness campaigns on the ivory trade can work. 
There have been other meaningful efforts by individual countries to protect elephants in the past year.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced a new ban on interstate sale of ivory in June, equating to an almost-complete can on commercial trade. Now, only pre-existing manufactured items with less than 200 grams of ivory or items over 100 years old can be sold legally. The ban also prevents hunters from bringing home more than two trophies a year. 
“Up until now, ivory markets in the US have pretty much had free run,” Jeff Flocken, the North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told The Christian Science Monitor shortly after the ruling in June. “It was very hard to prosecute people for selling ivory because the exceptions and loopholes were so large. The rule that came out and was finalized yesterday really takes a hard look at what is legal and what isn’t, and the as the US government said, it’s a near ban.”
Kenya’s president set fire to 105 tons of ivory in late April, believed to be the largest stockpile ever destroyed. The stack of tusks were accumulated from over 8,000 elephants. 
“A time has come when we must take a stand and the stand is clear,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta. “Kenya is making a statement that for us ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants.”
But some elephant supporters disagreed with Kenya’s ivory burn, arguing that such an act only serves to increase ivory’s value.
Despite recent gains in elephant conservation, it’s too soon to write off the elephant species as safe, conservationists say – a point underscored by a drastic poaching spike from 2009 to 2011.
“These figures should be treated with caution,” National Geographic concludes. “Data on elephant populations, poaching and the ivory trade is notoriously hard to verify, and causal relations between trends almost impossible to prove. Nevertheless the balance of evidence suggests hard work by governments, wildlife protection agencies, NGOs and campaigners in civil society organizations is making a difference. Maybe, just maybe, we have turned a corner at last.”

-Story Hinckley
The Christian Science Monitor
August 12, 2016

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Day 401- Paper Pachyderms!

How we can use origami to save our favorite pachyderm: 
96 Elephants has set a goal of breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest display of origami elephants! The current record is 33,764 elephants (who knew?), and 96 Elephants hopes to collect 35,000...the staggering number of elephants slaughtered every year due to poaching.  You can help by sending in your creations (directions below) and spreading the word!  
My paper pachyderms
Every year 35,000 African elephants are killed for their tusks, and in case people need some help picturing just how large that number is, a nonprofit is looking to illustrate it with origami.
“We’re attempting to break the Guinness World Records title for the largest display of origami elephants,” explains the 96 Elephants website about the project. “The current record is 33,764. We’re looking to fold 35,000 of them—the number of African elephants killed each year for their tusks.”
So far the group has received 3,000 paper elephants from across the country, some from individuals, others from nonprofits like the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance. Fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, who earlier this year designed a small elephant statue to raise funds for elephant conservation, has also contributed to the challenge.
While 3,000 may sound like a lot, it’s only just a little over the number of elephants killed in a single month. If the statistic sounds astounding, that is exactly the point as the nonprofit is seeking to raise awareness of how big the poaching problem currently is. The animals’ ivory tusks sell for high prices in the black market and in 2015 The African Elephant Summit even concluded the animal will go extinct in our lifetime if the trend continues.
Want to contribute but don’t know how to make a paper elephant? Don’t worry, you are not alone. That’s why 96 Elephants has put four different designs with step-by-step instructions on their website. The designs — two of an elephant head and two of a full elephant — were created by Origami USA, the American national society devoted to origami, who also contributed their share to the project.
For those ready to get folding, the deadline for submitting their paper pachyderms is September 16. While the origami doesn’t have to be perfect, it does need to resemble an elephant to count towards the final goal. Once finished, the elephant origamis should be mailed to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Day 400- Elephants and Election Day

August 5, 2015

New Jersey becomes the first state to ban the import or sale of ivory in the United States.  

August 12, 2015 

Governor Andrew Cuomo signs a new law to prevent the sale of ivory in New York State on World Elephant Day.  

October 4, 2015

California Governor Brown signs AB 96, named for the number of elephants killed every day in Africa, into law, "thus eliminating the third largest ivory market in the country and joining New York and New Jersey in banning intrastate ivory trade."

"Up to 90% of the ivory for sale in Los Angeles and approximately 80% of the ivory for sale in San Francisco is likely illegal under California law.  The proportion of likely illegal ivory in California has roughly doubled--from approximately 25% in 2006 to about 50% in 2014."

November 3, 2015

Washington State voters prohibit the sale, purchase and distribution of ten endangered species groups, including elephant ivory in a landslide vote. 

June 28, 2016

Hawaiian Governor Ige signs Senate Bill 2647 into law, banning the sale, purchase, barter and possession with intent to sell of any ivory products. 

July 7, 2016

Wildlife conservationists in Oregon submit signatures to get their ivory ban measure on the ballot in November.

July 28, 2015 

This November's Ballot will include Petition 68, banning the sale of ivory in Oregon.  

To our friends in Oregon, do not boo the sale of ivory.  Vote! 

Go make a difference! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Day 399- Ivory is the Ammunition

How Anti-Terrorism Tactics Are Being Used to Fight Elephant Poaching: In Kenya, Elephant poaching reached it's record high in 2012.  It is reported that 384 elephants were slaughtered.  Three years later, only 96 elephants were killed in 2015.  Lower poaching numbers aren't only great for the elephants- less poaching means less funding for terror groups, such as the Lord Resistance Army, led by the notorious Joseph Kony.  In fact, Feisal Ali Mohamed, an ivory poaching kingpin, was sentenced to 20 years in prison last Friday, guilty of dealing in ivory worth $433,000.  In a press statement, Kenya Wildlife Service said, "The guilty verdict is a strong message to all networks of poaching gangs, ivory smugglers, financiers, middlemen and shippers that Kenya will not watch as its elephant population is decimated or its territory used as a conduit for traffickers."
While the risk of extinction seems to constantly loom over African elephants, poaching devastates locally and globally. Over the past 28 years, Joseph Kony, one of Africa’s most notorious terrorists, has led the Lord’s Resistance Army in abducting more than 66,000 children for use as child soldiers, servants, and sex slaves.  Acts of cyclical violence against vulnerable children and the gentle giant Loxodonta Africana, fuel further brutality and instability in these fragile political regions and ecosystems.  Ivory tusks are worth up to $1,500 per pound on the black market; a male elephant typically has two 250-pound tusks.  Often the slaughter of one elephant can bring Kony and the LRA $750,000.  With about 35,000 elephants killed per year worldwide, and only 500,000 remaining in the wild, elephants are likely to be extinct by 2030 if poachers such as Kony are not stopped. 
In 1994, during the civil war between the North and the South in Sudan, Kony offered the Northern government his assistance in destabilizing the South.  In return, the government in Khartoum funded the LRA, supplying Kony and the soldiers with “food, medicine, and arms, including automatic rifles, antiaircraft guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars."  However, in 2005, the peace agreement between the North and South ended Kony’s funding.  The LRA relocated to Garamba National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, surrounded by about 4,000 elephants at the time.  With the ivory demand high in Asia, Kony realized his new source of funding: the largest land mammal on Earth. 
In 2009, Kony’s men attacked the rangers protecting Garamba National Park, weakening antipoaching efforts.  Since then, a ranger unit has been permanently deployed to protect the new park headquarters, and more specifically, a radio tower that is being built for the rangers, one of the park’s most valuable assets.  The rangers’ resources are limited; using old and unreliable AK-47s, often seized from poachers, two airplanes, and a helicopter against the LRA, though their main setback is their lack of ammunition.  A Sudanese poaching expedition in 2015 wiped out nearly 400 of Garamba National Park’s elephants, and the LRA is responsible for another 2,100, leaving less than 1,500 elephants in the park.  The fight between Garamba’s 150 rangers and poachers such as the LRA is often described as war. 
Slaughtering elephants and ruling in terror fuels the Lord’s Resistance Army.  Kony is raiding villages and “forcing children to kill their parents or siblings with machetes or blunt tools. He mutilates those who stand in his way, or those simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, cutting off innocent civilians’ noses, lips, and hands. He abducts girls to be sex slaves for his officers,” creating an almost unstoppable terrorist army, fueled by elephants. Ivory is the ammunition killing humans and elephants.

Without awareness of the looming environmental catastrophe, or with malicious callousness of said devastation, elephant poaching by the Lord’s Resistance Army will continue until extinction of the species on the continent.  The criminal Kony, must be named an international terrorist and an enemy of peaceful governments everywhere.  Ending the cycle of arming terrorists begins with limiting the purchase of ivory.  Kony must not be allowed to use elephants as his source of ammunition, to save the lives of countless civilians currently being threatened by the Lord’s Resistance Army, as well as the elephants of Africa.


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