By the end of today, 96 African elephants will have been killed. Due to this rate of poaching, the current African elephant population is estimated to have fallen to just 415,000 (IUCN 2016) and the situation is even worse for Asian elephants with an estimated population of about 50,000 (IUCN Red List). This is extremely heartbreaking because not only do elephants have intrinsic value but they are also one of the few flagship and keystone species. If they disappear, the entire ecosystem will collapse.
As we celebrate World Elephant Day on August 12th, I reflect upon what I have learned and realize that to be able to save the largest terrestrial mammal on Earth, we need to protect their habitats, stop the violent poaching and trafficking, support communities that are affected by human-elephant conflicts, and stop the demand for ivory.
Quy-Toan Do (World Bank), with Andrei Levchenko (University of Michigan) and Lin Ma (National University of Singapore)
As the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) convenes its 17th Conference of the Parties later this month, the elephant conservation policy space continues to be polarized, with some countries advocating for a continuation of the complete ban on international legal trade in ivory while others, such as Namibia and Zimbabwe proposing to resume a regulated international trade in their legal ivory stocks. The legal ivory trade is generally opposed by countries with small or declining elephant populations that are against the consumptive use of wildlife. They fear that a legal trade will increase demand for ivory and thereby increase poaching in their countries. On the other hand, the legal trade is supported by countries with stable or growing elephant populations, who believe in sustainable consumptive use. They feel that a continued ban on the ivory trade penalizes them for their conservation successes and removes an important incentive for the conservation of elephants and other wildlife and their habitats by providing funding for management and incentives to local communities.
Editor's note: M. Sanjayan is a conservation scientist and writer, and serves as Executive Vice President and Senior Scientist at Conservation International. He is host of the PBS live television event Big Blue Live, which debuts on August 31, 2015.
Teddy Roosevelt, the U.S. President from 1901-1909, was an unlikely conservationist. He traveled to the Western states as a big game hunter in 1883, and during his time there saw the disappearance of the last large herds of bison, along with widespread damage and destruction to wildlife. It made an indelible impact.
With his firsthand experience of nature and as a witness to its decimation, his interest in preserving flora, fauna and animals grew as he ascended the political hierarchy, and he’s now known in some circles as the “Conservationist President.”
It’s a well-deserved honorific: as 26th president, Teddy Roosevelt created the U.S. Forest Service and established 51 Federal Bird Reservations, four National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, and five National Parks. He enabled the 1906 American Antiquities Act, which he used to proclaim 18 National Monuments. In total, Roosevelt protected approximately 230,000,000 acres of public land in the United States during his presidency.
What does this have to do with PPPs? Everything. Because it’s almost impossible to do conservation the old way, as Roosevelt pulled it off, which is essentially declaring a place off limits. You just can’t do that anymore. Instead, virtually everything I’ve ever been able to do in the field of conservation over the last decade has had a very big element of public-private partnerships, and all the big nonprofits understand this right now.
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
Most of us working at The World Bank Group remember Prince William’s visit last year to discuss corruption and the illegal wildlife trade. In a speech, he announced the establishment of a royal task force to work with the transportation industry to examine its part in illegal wildlife trade.
Despite a ban on the international trade in ivory, African elephants are still poached in large numbers. Their ivory tusks are often carved into ornaments and jewelry. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, around 35,000 elephants are killed each year due to poaching, devastating the elephant populations of West and Central Africa. As recently as the 1930s and 1940s, there were between 3 to 5 million elephants in Africa, but today, there are only about 470,000.
WildAid launched a campaign in 2014 targeting the demand side of the ivory trade, with wildlife ambassadors admonishing that “When the buying stops, the killing can, too.”
Lang Lang, a world-famous Chinese concert pianist who has performed with leading orchestras in Europe, the United States and his native China, joined the campaign in May 2015 to help stop the killing of elephants for the ivory trade. Lang Lang and WildAid produced the following video featuring a performance of Beethoven’s Sonata “Appasionata” and the work of award-winning photographer Nick Brandt. Brandt is the founder of Big Life Foundation and a frequent contributor to WildAid campaigns.
The World Bank’s vision is a world free of poverty. As this statement suggests, it is rare that we tackle a problem that is not grounded in poverty. Today, on World Wildlife Day, it is our imperative to draw attention to one such issue, an issue that does not stem from poverty but rather comes from greed and neglect. Today, we take on poaching.
The illegal capture and killing of wildlife takes place primarily in developing countries but it is not an issue born out of poverty. The criminological community has disproved the notion that poverty causes crime and found rather that many crimes are opportunistic. In the absence of poverty, crime lives on. This is true of wildlife crime as well, as discussed by World Wildlife Fund experts in a recent interview.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Corruption 'impoverishes and kills millions'
An estimated $1tn (£600bn) a year is being taken out of poor countries and millions of lives are lost because of corruption, according to campaigners. A report by the anti-poverty organisation One says much of the progress made over the past two decades in tackling extreme poverty has been put at risk by corruption and crime. Corrupt activities include the use of phantom firms and money laundering. The report blames corruption for 3.6 million deaths every year. If action were taken to end secrecy that allows corruption to thrive - and if the recovered revenues were invested in health - the group calculates that many deaths could be prevented in low-income countries.
The Best and Worst Places to Build More Roads
Roads are taking over the planet. By the middle of this century, so many new roadways are expected to appear that their combined length would circle Earth more than 600 times. To build critical connections while preserving biodiversity, we need a global road map, scientists argue today in the journal Nature. And as a first step, the international team has identified areas where new roads would be most useful and those where such development would likely be in conflict with nature.
Elephants – in particular the forest elephants of Central Africa – are being poached at unprecedented rates for their valuable ivory. It is estimated that at least 200,000 forest elephants – a whopping 65 percent of the elephant population – have been slaughtered since 2002. Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been hotspots for the killing.
Now you might ask why we should care--an especially appropriate question to ask as we celebrate Earth Day. As humans, we may be attached to charismatic species such as elephants – but will their extinction affect us directly? The answer is yes. The intricate interconnections within ecosystems mean that the disappearance of a species has effects that are never limited to just that particular species. The impact can be broad and deep, affecting other animal and plant species, our water supply, people’s livelihoods, and even – in small ways – the climate.