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 3 2013: Hi Paula:

    I have spent some time is both South Africa and Kenya (good luck in the elections) travelling and volunteering in wildlife preserves and schools and have made many friends who work with wildlife.
    One thing I see from this distance is the large spike in the amount of poaching and consequent animal deaths that showed up shortly after China began getting so many construction and road contracts in Africa and bringing in their people to do the work.
    I don't think that correlation has been looked at. But if the stuff is being transported out of the country in diplomatic pouches as has been alleged, your government is going to have to be willing to break diplomatic ties with certain Asian counties and I don't think they will do that, not even if there was only one elephant left in the world!
    I know many of the preserves with rhino are clipping their horns, but with elephants in the wild (or rhino in the wild) I understand that this is not feasible.
    However, the proposal to auction off the seized tusk and horn MIGHT put a dent in the illegal trade, as well as raising money for more enforcement, better pay, weapons and training for the rangers.
    I'd love to hear more about what your organisation thinks and what it proposes to try . . .

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