Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Rescue dogs head to Africa to fight illegal ivory trade
LAURA LUNDQUIST, Bozeman DAily Chronicle
September 24, 2014

By the end of this week, a pair of ebony dogs from Montana will be hunting for ivory relics in Africa, joining the battle against illegal poaching and trafficking.

Steve and Ruger, two homeless black Labrador retrievers, avoided uncertain futures when they were brought to the attention of the Working Dogs for Conservation.

For 14 years, the Three Forks-based organization has adopted and trained more than 35 dogs, mostly rescue animals, to sniff out everything from weedy woad plants to pika poop in order to augment conservation work.

Since June, the two dogs have trained in a junkyard south of Bozeman, learning to search automobiles for ivory of any sort: unfinished tusks, figurines, jewelry or piano-key tops.

The dogs need to know their jobs well, because on Wednesday, they leave for their new homes in the South Luangwa region of Zambia, Africa.

Members of the South Luangwa Conservation Society will take over their care and training as they try to stem the illegal ivory trade that has surged in the past few years, threatening to send African elephants and rhinos into extinction.

Illicit trade in ivory rose in 2011 to the highest levels in 16 years. In 2013, ivory shipments rose another 20 percent over 2011 levels, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Poachers killed more than 25,000 African elephants in 2011, another 22,000 in 2012 and the slaughter continues unabated. Asian elephants are not immune.

Tanzania has the highest rate of poaching, according to a February Interpol report, but Zambia also has problems.

The ivory is then smuggled through Uganda and Kenya on its way to Asia or Europe.

China is the primary destination for illegal ivory, but the U.S. is the second-largest market.

WDC wants to stop the ivory before it leaves Africa.

“Searching vehicles is a new thing for us. We have not worked on trafficking,” said WDC executive director Pete Coppolillo. “But because of the rise in ivory poaching and the lack of response of other management authorities who work on trafficking issues – they have been resistant to including wildlife products in their screening – we somewhat reticently are now in this business to stop wildlife trafficking.”

The problem is not limited to wildlife trafficking.

After last year’s bombing of a Kenyan mall, investigations into al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist group associated with al-Qaida, revealed that wildlife traffickers are the same people who traffic in narcotics, guns and people.

An Elephant Action League report claims that the illegal sale of ivory funds up to 40 percent of Al-Shabaab’s operations.

“If you’ve got a network of people, who cares if you’re moving heroin or rhino horn, except that rhino horn is worth more. And they do nasty things like making the people they’re trafficking carry the rhino horn so they won’t get caught,” Coppolillo said.

WDC co-founder Megan Parker has overseen the dogs’ training and will accompany them to Zambia for a month, making sure the handlers are as trained as the dogs.

She was pleased with the donated junkyard training grounds.

“This whole place has been a dreamland for me. I could not design a better place to train dogs,” Parker said as she wandered through the maze of old car and truck bodies, inserting donated pieces of ivory into random compartments. “There are so many scents and rabbits and marmots that could throw them off if they don’t stay focused on their work.”

But after three months, the dogs have no problem staying on task, although each has a little different technique.

Three-year-old Ruger, found on a Montana reservation, is almost blind so he searches methodically, going from car to car, sniffing almost every part before moving on.

One-year-old Steve, whose owner died suddenly of cancer, is more high-energy but will sit stock-still and expectant once he’s found his target.

Since their reward is being allowed to play, the dogs were trained to the scent of ivory by first finding their chew-toy placed behind a piece of ivory.

Eventually, they can search for the ivory itself and are taught to sit when they find it. They are immediately rewarded with their toy.

The dogs’ behavior needs to be continually reinforced and handlers need to avoid rewarding the dogs for other things. To make sure the dogs are doing their jobs, WDC members will return to Zambia periodically for the next 10 years.

At some point, the dogs will probably also be trained to sniff out ammunition to detect poachers trying to enter protected areas.

Some WDC dogs, such as 8-year-old Peppin, have been trained to recognize as many as 20 scents. The only hitch is that the dogs will search for all those scents all the time so trainers have to be selective, Coppolillo said.

“Since 9/11, we’ve learned more about dogs and how they work than we ever did before. In April, we were in D.C., training on the newest techniques for searching vehicles. And a lot of it is adapting military stuff regarding explosives. So that information is out here but it’s not getting across the pond. So that’s what we’re doing,” Coppolillo said.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


On October 4th people in cities throughout the world will march as one voice to save Elephants and Rhinos. The countdown to their extinction has begun. Unless action is taken now, we will lose these majestic, highly intelligent, and emotionally sentient creatures FOREVER.

More than 35,000 elephants are being killed every year so their tusks can be carved into ivory trinkets. A rhino is slaughtered once every 9-11 hours for its horn. Their only hope for survival lies in an immediate end to the ivory and rhino horn trade (both "legal" and "illegal") and the chance to recover from decades of mass slaughter.

Please join the global march to call for an end to the killing and a ban on ivory and rhino horn before it's too late.

Lori Bergemann and all of us at Amara Conservation support the International March for Elephants and encourage everyone to get out and help save the elephant from extinction..

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Tusker Day 2014 (Kenya)
Tim Sandle, Digital Journal
September 19, 2014

A new campaign day has been established to help highlight the plight of African elephants. The event is called Tusker Day and it takes place on September 22nd.

The date for Tusker Day (also known as Elephant Appreciation Day) has been selected in honor of Satao, Africa's largest elephant bull, slain by poachers on May 30th 2014. Digital Journal spoke with Akinyi Adongo, the organizer of the event.

Adongo explained that “Satao belonged to an elite group of elephants called Tuskers because his tusks were so big they almost touched the ground.”
As to the need for a day devoted to elephant protection, Adongo went onto explain “Tuskers and elephants are facing imminent extinction in 15 years unless we act. We hope that this day will create more awareness on the plight of Tusker elephants.”

This year's inaugural event will take place at Seven Restaurant in Village Market, Nairobi. The campaign is focused on the slogan “Annual Drinking Holiday”. To mark this ,a suitably branded beer will be promoted. Tusker is also the name of one of Africa's most well-known beer brands. In terms of fundraising, for every Tusker Beer sold during the event, 50 Kenya shillings will be donated towards conservation of Tusker elephants in Tsavo.

Raising money is important, given the current situation. As Adongo outlines: “Out of a population of 11,000 elephants in Tsavo, there are less than 20 known Tusker elephants, one less with Satao's demise. Tsavo is the last place on earth with a viable gene pool of Tusker elephants.”

Poaching in some areas in Africa shows no signs of abating. According to the World Wildlife Fund: “in countries where wildlife management authorities are chronically under-funded, poaching still appears to be a chronic, significant problem.”

Summing up the mix of beer and conservation, Adongo summarizes: “why not appreciate African elephants, African beer, African people and friends of Africa by celebrating Africa's first annual drinking holiday for a good cause on Tusker Day.”



Banning ivory: The why and the how
Judith McHale and David J. Hayes, The Hill
September 20, 2014

A shocking new peer-reviewed study documented that 100,000 elephants were killed in Africa for their ivory from 2010 to 2012, and that a burgeoning illegal ivory market has continued to feed high, unsustainable rates of killing into 2013 and 2014. Africa’s forest elephants are being wiped out, and the continued viability of the continent-wide population is now in doubt.

The potential extinction risk of one of the world’s most iconic species demands our attention, regardless of its context. But there is more. As the presidents of Tanzania, Gabon, Namibia and Togo candidly confirmed at the recent U.S.-Africa Summit, the international criminal networks that are orchestrating the killing, gathering, transporting and selling of ivory other wildlife parts are corrupting officials in their governments and funding terrorist organizations. National security also is at stake.

What can be done to stop the killings? Clearly, as the administration has recognized, a comprehensive strategy that addresses the entire supply chain is needed. It must begin in Africa by stemming the killings and working with local communities to protect their wildlife. But so long as there is a strong market pull for illegal ivory in Asia, Europe and the U.S., criminal syndicates will find a way for the killings to continue.
Addressing the demand side of the elephant crisis means stigmatizing new demand for ivory and enforcing the international ban on ivory trading. Only a ban on commercial trade in ivory can protect elephants when they are on the razor’s edge. This is why the U.S. Congress responded to a previous spike of elephant killings in the 1980s by slapping an indefinite moratorium − effectively, a ban − on the import of ivory under African Elephant Conservation Act of 1989. The international community followed suit in 1990, enacting a ban on the commercial import and export of ivory and ivory products under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). These actions cooled off the ivory market and enabled elephant populations to rebound.

Tragically, however, enforcement attention on the ivory ban has faded over time. Meanwhile, demand for ivory has sharply increased over the past five years -- particularly from consumers in newly wealthy Asian nations. Traffickers took advantage of the combination of market confusion and lax enforcement to meet the new demand, killing more than 100,000 elephants in the process.

The recent breakdown in the effectiveness of the ban on the commercial ivory trade prompted the president to call on his administration to revisit and reinvigorate ban. It also is why some leading states, including New York and New Jersey, are passing their own bans on trade in ivory.

The administration’s renewed commitment to the ivory ban has raised hackles in some quarters as U.S. regulatory authorities have increased scrutiny on ivory imports and on individuals and retailers who are purporting to sell legal ivory. None of the concerns undermine the imperative to end commercial trade in ivory. They reflect understandable anxieties that can be addressed by new rules that the Administration is preparing to release.

By way of example, sensible rules can ensure that the existing ban on importing ivory does not inhibit the easy cross-border transport of older musical instruments that contain small amounts of ivory for performances, or museum collections for exhibition. Likewise, individuals who own very old ivory pieces that may be exempt under the Endangered Species Act should have an avenue to establish their authenticity as “antiques,” perhaps through third party experts, working under government-approved guidelines. Finally, with questions being raised around older items that contain a very small, incidental amount of ivory, query whether the federal government should follow the lead of New York and New Jersey, whose strong new bans do not extend to those items.

By taking these types of sensible approaches, we can cut out the background noise, reinforce and reinvigorate the commercial ban on ivory, and ensure that our limited governmental resources are focused on the sophisticated traffickers who are pushing illegal ivory into commerce. At the same time, we need to recruit leading retailers, internet search engines and trading platforms, banks, and transportation providers to help disrupt ivory supply chains and market opportunities here in the U.S., and abroad. And we need academic and marketing experts to help us change consumer behavior and reduce the demand for ivory and other wildlife parts.

By taking strong actions at home to close down illegal ivory markets, we can – and should -- insist that other nations do the same. Indeed, if other countries fail to enforce the international ban on commercial trade in ivory and allow illegal domestic ivory markets to thrive, we should not hesitate to move against them with trade sanctions under U.S. and international law. There is no time to waste.

McHale and Hayes are the chair and vice-chair of the President’s Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking.

Friday, September 5, 2014


Baby Wellington on left, Mama Wonky Tusk center, and sister older sister on right

Elephants in the Room

At a five-star lodge in Zambia, an elephant family waltzes through the lobby each year. While elephants can be violent in the wild, here they grace past reception without bumping a chair. But why? Cameraman Nathan Pilcher is on a mission to find out...

This show was really good....take a look...

Thursday, September 4, 2014


 The artist Tristin Lowe’s reminder of the plight of African elephants. 

Over the next week, as the fashion world heads to Milk Studios in West Chelsea to see one of Made Fashion Week’s 15 runway shows, it will be greeted by a guest: a giant pink elephant.

The inflatable 10-foot-tall elephant, designed by the artist Tristin Lowe, is part of a collaboration between Made Fashion Week and the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation to raise awareness about the Clintons’ latest cause: ivory trafficking and the killing of African elephants.

“We have about 15,000 people flowing through the doors this week,” said Keith Baptista, a managing partner at Made Fashion Week.

The idea for the alliance with Made apparently started when Chelsea Clinton was chatting about the issue with Diane von Furstenberg and Oscar de la Renta at a party for the outgoing mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in early December. (“They’re two of our closest family friends,” Ms. Clinton said of the designers, adding that she and her mother had dinner with them on Tuesday night.)

Ms. von Furstenberg and Mr. de la Renta suggested that Ms. Clinton reach out to Anna Wintour, who in turn directed the Clinton Foundation to the Council of Fashion Designers of America. That’s when an introduction was made to Made.

“We feel that if we can build platforms around fashion and music and art, why can’t we also do something that has a political message?” Mr. Baptista said.

This year, Made Fashion Week will produce more than 30 runway shows and presentations (there will be shows at sites other than Milk Studios), including those by Public School, Jeremy Scott and Ohne Titel.

The Clintons wanted to target Fashion Week because of the sorts of people going to shows (“the press, the buyers, the influencers,” Mr. Baptista said) and the social media reach they have. READ FULL STORY


Yao Ming aims to save Africa's elephants, by persuading China to give up ivory
By Simon Denyer, Washington Post
September 4, 2014

BEIJING — As a shy, nervous 22-year-old NBA rookie, Yao Ming confronted the concentrated power of Shaquille O’Neal for the first time — and came out a winner.

Now, more than a decade later and long retired from the game, the former Houston Rocket faces a challenge perhaps as daunting as it is radically different: to wean the Chinese nation off its love of ivory, and save Africa’s dwindling elephant population.

In the past three years alone, about 100,000 elephants have been poached for their tusks, according to a new study: a mass slaughter propelled by an ever-rising Chinese demand for ivory from an ever-richer nation. Yet the player once nicknamed the “Great Wall of China” aims to stop that flood, through the power of persuasion.

The metaphors are perhaps too easy: basketball’s gentle giant aiming to save Africa’s gentle giants; the man who built a bridge between China and the United States now trying to bridge another vast cultural divide, between his nation’s nouveau riche and the people and animals of Africa.

The 7-foot, 6-inch Yao, 33, said in a recent interview that he had connected with Africa particularly because “many animals there are bigger than me.”

The former NBA star teamed up with the wildlife protection group WildAid to help publicize the loss of African elephants and rhinoceroses to poachers. READ FULL STORY

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