IFAW Steps Up Campaign Against Ivory Trade

It is quite shocking to realize that in this day and age, free animals are still being killed in their own habitats for parts of their body. One of the most notorious and cruel breaches of the code of respect for wildlife is the illegal ivory trade that sees a huge number of animals killed.

According to International Fund for Animal Welfare, the illegal ivory trade starts with the slaughter of elephants, continues with wildlife traffickers smuggling ivory across international borders and ends with the under-the-counter sale of carvings, signature stamps and trinkets, in marketplaces in Asia and online. The organization’s work was the subject of a recent Sky TV report on the ivory trade and which can be seen here.

The organization last month learned that poachers from Sudan in Central Africa were killing elephants by the hundreds in Cameroon’s Bouba Njida National Park. It said the local government was aware of the problem, but did not take action.

In early March, IFAW French Director Céline Sissler-Bienvenu and Julie Landry, from the French office, flew into Cameroon with a French TV crew to investigate and conduct an aerial survey. Céline and Julie also met with the Minister of Forests and Wildlife and his counterpart in Defence and urged them to act quickly.

The outcome of the meeting was that three hundred soldiers, a helicopter and three ultra-light aircraft from the national army entered Bouba Ndjida to stop the massacre. Almost 300 elephant carcasses were counted in the aerial survey, although the numbers of dead elephants may be significantly higher. Villagers in the area reported that poachers claimed to have killed 650 elephants. No one knows for sure where the poachers fled to because of the size of the park.

Last week, an IFWA-funded Interpol operation went to Camerron to tackle trade of ivory and rhino horn with the largest-ever African wildlife crime operation in 14 countries in East, West and Southern Africa.

Codenamed Operation WORTHY, initial reports indicated this crackdown resulted in arrests of several dozen people and the recovery of more than 250 kg of raw ivory, lion and leopard pelts, python and crocodile skins and live birds. Illegal firearms and other contraband were also seized.

Besides the operation IFAW is also educating the public to reduce consumer demand, the real driver of all this violence against animals. The organization recently managed to get Baidu, China biggest’s online search engine, to shut down 13 forums engaging in the illegal trade of ivory, tiger bone, rhino horn, sea tortoise shell, and other derivatives and in live animals. Baidu also wiped 11 forums clean of any discussion related to banned species. In all, Baidu deleted 34,685 postings and is working with IFAW to find other ways to combat illegal online wildlife trade.

China is one of the largest consumers of wildlife products and an IFAW study found that 70 percent of Chinese consumers did not know that elephants were killed for ivory. Some thought elephants may lose tusks like people lose teeth. In Chinese, “ivory” means “elephant tooth.” The new “Mom, I got teeth” ad campaign explains that ivory products only come from dead elephants and encourages people to reject ivory products. They have been displayed in subways, airports and other high traffic areas. Now they are included in a curriculum on animal welfare education. In June 2011, they were used by Zhejiang Education Bureau in the Chinese language portion of the National College Entrance Exams, which in that province was taken by nearly 300,000 students this past June. IFAW says that if the ads become adopted in the college exams across the country, it could reach more than nine million high-school graduates each year.

Help protect elephants by signing a petition organized by IFAW.

Image credit: IFAW