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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: It's money. It's as simple as that.
    Money has to end in one regard in order for people to stop doing things for money.
    Money is the reason they kill female babies or fetuses in India. It's too expensive to a family to have a baby girl.
    But it doesn't matter what it is.
    Some comments made here: "People are willing to pay the price - pay - People who buy ivory - notice the word "buy" - tourism meaning tourist dollars, i.e. money - ivory harvesting, meaning making money for survival, a job
    Yet people will say again and again, you can't blame money; money is not the root of all evil.
    Well, yes it is because it is the reason for corruption, greed, crime, horrible acts against humans or animals, etc.

    My brother is a big game hunter. Travels the world over, killing all the magnificent beasts of the earth.
    Now that he is much older, I don't think he does it much any more. I could not see how a two-foot piece of an elephant's
    leg was more beautiful than the actual beast roaming its lands, especially since they could always be shot with a camera, captured forever in all their real beauty and letting them live would always keep them alive.
    I asked why he kept doing this? He replied that the elephants live on areas of land set aside solely for their survival but as they populate they become over-populated and have to be thinned out. Plus, he said the meat goes to the people in the area. What a crock of you-know-what. Of course if you crowd them together, you can then justify what one calls "over-population" so that you can continue killing. It's sickening.
    The real reason he does this is it is a way to continue killing his father, who was a horribly cruel, sadistic man. We suffered extreme violence under his hands. He has killed them all, several times over and mounted them everywhere. He is basically a serial-killer only he killed animals.

    It all has to be confronted by people who won't stop until it all stops. Same thing religious spokespeople should spend time doing.
    • Feb 28 2013: So do you think people continue big-game hunting because they find pleasure in killing, or having power or control over nature? An if so, how do we change this mindset that killing is good, and what alternatives can we offer such people?
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      Feb 28 2013: Wow, that's a very powerful and sad personal story. I wish that visitors to Africa could experience the opposite, a peace associated with reconnection with the land of our origin, and a relationship with the animals that we evolved with. I have never understood the mindset of hunters but that's just me. The ivory trade is not about hunting, it's about supplying a valuable resource to people who have no connection to the animals. Perhaps if every Asian user of ivory had to actually shoot the elephant, they wouldn't be quite so interested in the ivory.

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