As part of our advocacy’s mission, one of our primary objectives is to inform the general public about the extent of elephant’s exploitation worldwide, the tragedy caused by the ivory trade and the importance to fight wildlife crime.
We do so through media and communication campaigns supported by facts and solid scientific evidence.
We consider fundamental the re-positioning of elephants in people’s mind, by soundly and firmly placing them in that small club of creatures, like apes and cetaceans, who shares outstanding and unique emotional, psychological and behavioral traits with humans.
The general public is not fully aware of the elephant’s uniqueness and elephant conservation is mostly based on their total numbers (quantitative approach) and not so much on their unique mind and set of human-like behaviors (qualitative approach), which include self-awareness, altruism, cooperation, grief, allomothering (babysitting), Theory of Mind and empathy.
EAL collaborates with the most important scientists and experts in the world in order to make sure that what we say it’s always supported by facts and scientific data.
Equally important is the re-positioning of the situation on the ground regarding the killing of elephants for ivory. Not just the daily elephant slaughter but also the struggle of the people who protect them, the robbery that is going on, the national and international security threat that poaching is posing and the fight with its human toll.
Dozens of people die every year fighting against poachers, leaving behind widows, orphans and families destroyed. Poor people are pushed into killing elephants and committing crimes, risking prison terms and their lives. In 2012 the first female ranger in Kenya was killed by poachers, Florence Hadia Abae, pregnant and the mother of a small boy. This is the ivory trade.
The public opinion ignores also that:
- The ivory traffic is often in the hands of dangerous criminal syndicates;
- Heavily armed organized gangs and terrorist groups are active poachers and profit from ivory;
- Ivory traders and resellers are often involved in other traffics, in drugs and weapons.
Wildlife Crime is the 4th largest transnational crime in the world, worth an estimate US$ 17 billion annually!
Offences like poaching, trafficking in live or dead endangered animals or illegal logging, are complex phenomenon where a variety of factors interact – cultural, social, economic and environmental – and often involve different actors.
The causes and the consequences of wildlife crime vary among countries, areas and local societies, but it always threatens the existence of many plant and animal species. For most countries, combating wildlife crime is unfortunately not a priority and almost always remains overlooked and poorly understood.
Wildlife offences also enrich international criminal groups and enable corruption to flourish. Fraud, counterfeiting, money-laundering and violence are often found in combination with various forms of wildlife crime.
Past polls and surveys highlighted the strength of the addiction to ivory in China but also a great lack of knowledge by consumers and the need of effective and targeted educational activities.
China. A recent survey polled consumers in 9 of China’s largest cities and sampled a group of 600 members of the upper middle class with an age range of 18-55. According to the survey, 84 percent of Chinese consumers surveyed plan to buy ivory products in the future. 68 percent of respondents have purchased at least one ivory product in the past. 87 percent associate purchasing ivory products with a feeling of “prestige” (2012, National Geographic and Ifop).
Ignorance and the importance of education and pressure are evident also from other findings from the IFAW’s survey in China, as reported by one of IFAW’s undercover investigators: “Another problem is that the Chinese word for ivory is elephant’s teeth—xiang ya. We did a survey. Seventy percent thought tusks can fall out and be collected by traders and grow back, that getting ivory did not mean the elephant is killed, and more than 80 percent would reject ivory products and not buy any more if they knew elephants were being killed, so it’s ignorance.”
Regional studbooks and government estimates suggest that approximately 12,000–15,000 of the world’s elephants are living in captivity, often in dire conditions in circuses, working & tourists camps and in several zoos. We firmly oppose and fight any use of elephants in circuses and the capture and taming of wild elephants for working and tourist/safari camps.
We share the scientific view that elephants are ill-adapted to captivity and require complex social and environmental settings to thrive.