Africa

2016 Will Be A Breakthrough Year For Saving Elephants

By  | 
A baby african elephant calf following its mother

Image: Shutterstock/Villiers Steyn

2016 Will Be A Breakthrough Year For Saving Elephants

Elephants are the largest mammals living on earth, and are among the gentlest creatures. They are led by a matriarch, and are crucial to the eco-systems in which they live, as they spread seeds through their digestive tracts, clear gaps in trees to encourage regeneration, and reduce the overtaking of bushes. Unfortunately, these majestic creatures are endangered due to their ivory tusks. Poachers have been hunting elephants for generations and selling the ivory overseas illegally. What makes 2016 the year for saving elephants?

Just today, the Democratic Republic of Congo was able to disassemble a major trafficking ring, with the assist of the World Wildlife Organization. WWF works with the Republic in efforts to break up illegal trade groups and reduce the demand for ivory. Hong Kong has been one of the major supporters of the ivory trade, until recently. Last year, WWF formed a petition to send to Hong Kong officials in attempt to ban the trafficking. Tens of thousands of citizens signed the petition, and it was given to the authorities in January 2016. Since then, Hong Kong has announced their zero-tolerance policy of accepting illegal ivory, and now plans to take action in assisting the elephants’ plight. To learn more about WWF and ways you can become involved, visit their website.

This past November, a new president was elected in Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli. He has earned himself the nickname of “Bulldozer”, as he is no-nonsense and refuses to stand for corruption. He has taken a stand for the elephants, and is holding his country responsible for its other injustices. Barely a month after being sworn in, Tanzania was to celebrate its Independence Day, but Magufuli abandoned all festivities. Instead, he had all the citizens participate in a “clean-up-the-environment-day”, which he was included in, as well. This move saved Tanzania millions of dollars by foregoing the annual party, and gave the people an opportunity to give back to their country. Since Magufuli has been in office, multiple arrests have been made and smugglers have been caught red-handed on the Tanzania border, not escaping justice. Though he is just one man, he is already using his influence to make Tanzania a safer place for all creatures.

The National Trust for Nature Conservation finished building an electric fence mere days ago in Nepal. This 18 km fence has two purposes: to keep the elephants from trampling about the fragile villages, and to keep the elephants safe from poachers. Kenya recently held an Eastern Africa Regional Wildlife Meeting to discuss elephant poaching and ivory trade. The Kenya Wildlife Service released the following statement concerning the meeting: “It will bring together policy makers at ministries responsible for wildlife, chief executives and heads of wildlife law enforcement from wildlife authorities in six Eastern Africa elephant range states of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.” The goal of the meeting was to establish a wildlife directors’ forum to encourage communication throughout the regions and implement change in the levels of wildlife crime. To read more about this organization, go to savetheelephants.org.

With all these strides, 2016 may finally be the breakthrough year the elephants and their supporters have been waiting for. Join the movement for saving elephants, and be a part of history in the making.

Kaitlyn is a graduate from Lee University and is a staff editor for R.H. Boyd Publishing. She enjoys travel, books and penguins. When she's not working, she dreams of seeing the world.