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: In addition to the plan we have so far, some enterprising science lab like the CSIRO could work on producing synthetic ivory. It is organic in origin afterall so you might be able to grow it in culture.
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      Feb 28 2013: Hi Peter, synthetic ivory has been tried adn this hasn't really worked, the Chinese users will pay much more for the real thing because of it's association with the elephants. I would love help from a lab like CSIRO to help me to find a means of permenanently marking the ivory in our stockpiles so that it can be traced to ensure that it never enter the illegal markets and gets laundered into the legal markets.
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        Feb 28 2013: You just need to make the synthetic ivory good enough so no-one can tell. That's why a biological mechanism would be best. I'm not talking about immitaion ivory I mean "synthetic" it's real ivory just made in a lab. Like synthetic diamonds and saphires etc. There are few natural stones used in jewellery anymore as the synthetic versions are so good.

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