World Elephant Day 2015 – saving and celebrating elephants

With one elephant killed for its ivory every 15 minutes, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is marking World Elephant Day (12 August) by highlighting what is being done to save them.

Director of IFAW Southern Africa, Jason Bell, said: “At a time when there is plenty to worry about with regards to elephants, World Elephant Day on August 12 is one of those days that gives everyone a chance to celebrate everything that is so wonderful about these incredible creatures and what is being done to protect them.

“While elephants are under more threat from poaching and habitat loss than ever, we are seeing a significant groundswell in the determination by governments, NGOs and the public to stop the criminals who kill elephants for their ivory, to end illegal trade, and to ensure elephants live their lives free from conflict with humans.

“Elephants have fascinated humans for thousands of years. They are scientifically known to be immensely intelligent and the complex social structures of their family herds closely resemble those of our own. The world would be a much poorer place without vast herds of elephants roaming the African savannahs, or the shy Forest elephants that make the central African jungles their own, or the Asian elephants which have been honoured and deified for their beauty and intelligence in some of the world’s oldest frescoes and friezes,” said Bell.

More soberly Bell said that while countries around the world had destroyed over 60 tons of illegal ivory in the past two years; media reports showed that law enforcers had made at least 70 seizures totalling nearly 20 metric tonnes of contraband ivory since 1 January 2015.
Nearly 35,000 elephants die each year for their ivory and illegal trafficking of wildlife is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$19-billion (around £12.25 billion) annually. It ranks among damaging and dangerous global crimes such as trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting.

UK Director of IFAW, Philip Mansbridge, said: “Part of the fight against ivory and illegal wildlife trafficking is disrupting potential markets. To that end we have recently seen the EU calling a halt to the importation of elephant trophies among others, meaning the import of such items from a huge swath of African countries is now banned in Europe; elsewhere major international airlines are refusing to transport trophies of elephants and other animals. These are all initiatives which frustrate criminals.”

This World Elephant Day (12 August) IFAW will post a tweet and a picture of an elephant every 15 minutes – 96 in all – to commemorate the daily toll of elephants killed for their ivory. Please join us and share the hashtag #every15minutes.

As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean. The organisation has a Memorandum of Understanding with Interpol, the first ever signed by INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme with an NGO. IFAW and Interpol have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including Interpol’s largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012.

The IFAW report, Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, documents the threat the illegal trade poses to animals like elephants and rhinos, and also people. To learn more about the illegal ivory trade, download IFAW’s digital magazine Unveiling the Ivory Trade.