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 4 2013: Monetize the value to their survival. Making something illegal, i.e. alcohol, drugs, simply drives up the price and creates associated violence. When you remove the tusks, they cease to be elephants and become a man made version of an elephant. Pay the population which creates the poachers to monitor and document the elephants. Make the pay greater than what they can earn by poaching. If the elephants disappear, so do the well paying jobs. Economic problems typically require economic solutions.

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