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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  • Mar 2 2013: I believe if we were to invest in Africa, in infrastructure, jobs, education in the Local communities in these areas; poaching would slowly crumble. If we give people another choice rather than poaching to make a living. This would not satisfy demand in Asia however it would have the potential to remove supply and maybe just maybe give a sense of pride to local communities in their wildlife, a sense to protect it. And with that step poaching would be made all the more harder.
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      Mar 2 2013: China is investing quite a lot in Africa. It has an embassy in Kenya and in other African nations and makes a show, maybe sincere at some level, of proclaiming how hard they are on smugglers who bring illegal ivory into China. The economic quid pro quo should start with China, and not to give poachers an alternate way to make a living, which I do not believe will work to any significant degree in any case, but as leverage to make the Chinese officials look for better ways to locate and prosecute smugglers and choke off the supply lines. No doubt there are also issues with corruption within the African governments as well, which need to be addressed.

      I imagine Paula Kahumbu, and the organizations she works with, have a fair idea where the largest barriers exist and some idea of what works and what doesn't . I know that animal rights acitivism has grown a lot within China. I wonder how much awareness these organizations have of the elephant/ivory issue and whether increasing their awareness would help increase pressure from within to address this problem..

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