TED Conversations

Paula Kahumbu

CEO, WildlifeDirect

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How do we save African elephants from extinction?

African elephants are being slaughtered for their ivory as a surprising consequences of the rise of Asian economies. Symbolic of wealth and prestige, ivory was once only affordable for a few. Now with hundreds of millions of newly rich people in Asia, demand has outstripped supply and elephants are being killed at a rate that will drive them to extinction in less than 15 years.

African governments are unable to stop the poaching - the price of ivory is driving impunity, corruption and is now under control of criminal cartels.

How do we stop this? What will it take to reverse this trend? Do we need to change cultures? Appealing for compassion in China, Thailand, Philippines? Is it about law enforcement?

We need some bright ideas from TEDsters who love African animals and who know how to cause change in Asia


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  • Feb 28 2013: There is some information on elephant tusks at this link;
    It explains that about a quarter of the tusk is inside of the elephant, so poachers would still have a large amount of ivory to harvest.
    Education is the key. When people become educated they are more apt to understand the connectedness of all life. They begin to understand how everything they do has a ripple effect.
    In the case of rising wealth in Asian countries and the hunger to show wealth, one needs to ask; Do the people who buy ivory even care about the elephants? Would they stop if they knew? Would the poacher stop if he had access to work that he could do to feed his family and gradually acquire the material things he is willing to risk his life for, now?
    Perhaps eco-tourism? There is a growing trend of eco-tourism and some governments are cashing in on it. Once established, local people benefit greatly from it, and can become very possessive about "their" animals, thwarting poachers of animals and plants. It is a long road, but it can be done.

    Unfortunately, as long as there are people willing to pay the price, elephants will be slaughtered for their ivory, tigers killed for their penises, (females are killed when the poacher cannot tell the difference) and rhinos will be killed for the so-called aphrodisiac effect of their horns.

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