In early September, the Houston Zoo Wildlife Conservation Program began two months of programming focused on the African Elephant and the Ivory Crisis. In a world of constant communication, and distractions, we felt the best way to get our message across and gain people’s attention was to do so as often as we could. In this way, we would bring your attention to the plight of the African Elephant, one of Africa’s most iconic species.
And we would do so with positive messages about our partners in the field who have dedicated their lives to the elephant and many other very special animals. On occasion we would promote a current story which may not have been as positive – people need to hear these stories as elephants continue to be illegally hunted for their ivory which finds its way from Africa across to Asia where it is turned into personal and religious ornamental carvings and sold at prices higher than the value of gold. It is today’s “white” gold and until the governments of China and other up and coming Asian countries decide to put a stop to the trade and sale of ivory, elephants will continue to die so people can own their tusks. The illegal ivory trade may be driven by China but it is an international issue. The US is sitting on a stockpile of 6 tonnes, possibly more, of ivory confiscated in our own country.
Today, there could be as many as a half a million elephants left on the continent of Africa. Just 30 years ago, that number was more than double but today the goal is not to increase the population back to historical numbers – if only 30 years can be considered historical. There is simply not enough space left for 1.2 million elephants to roam across the continent. Africa’s savannahs and forests are different now with people and communities spreading out across the landscape. Today, the goal should be to stop the killing of elephant for the ornamental ivory trade and stabilize their populations as well as continue to work to reduce the conflict between humans and elephants who compete for both water sources and space needed for food.
And living in the United States it is hard to understand that message. Africa is such a vast and varied continent, how could there be space issues between people and wildlife? The issues are as large as the continent itself. So the Houston Zoo set out to bring attention to these issues and what we, hopefully with the assistance of our friends, members and guests, could do to help protect Africa’s elephants.
It is really about the awareness needed to generate significant funding to put the right people and resources on the ground to protect elephants and people. To identify the sources of local conflict with elephants that raid peoples crops – many times their only source of food; to fund programs that will engage local governments to reduce illegal poaching; to support local communities with resources so they see value in elephants alive, not dead. Here is a great example of a group doing work on the ground in Africa to protect elephants and one of the Houston Zoo’s main partners in Africa this year – Save the Elephants
Elephants matter. To the role they play on the landscape, to the culture of Africa, they simply belong. We would ask for you to help us support elephant conservation any way you can go. Be an advocate, write your local representatives to place a complete ban on the trade in Ivory in the US, support the effort through the Houston Zoo or attend a few of our upcoming events.
You can support the Elephant Crisis Campaign here
Join Us: November 14th Reception 6pm-8pm. Art for Conservation: Wildlife Photography, Original Watercolors and Giclees. Gremillion & Co. Fine Art Gallery, 2501 Sunset Blvd. Show is open until December 1st
Or just come out to the zoo and enjoy our elephants (https://www.houstonzoo.org/meet-the-animals/mammals/) getting their morning bath daily around 10:00am – a bit like this young elephant in Africa, without the mud…