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 5 2013: You won't find compassion among the rich or the government. The ones that seek the ivory do so in full knowledge of the consequences of their actions. They're rich and they care little for anything else. Law enforcement won't save all the elephants, but it would be a start. Such operations would likely be expensive and require a lot of manpower, but there's little else you can do when the men doing the harvesting are ready to kill people to get their ivory.

    The other solution would be considerably funding for reserves and protected land, allowing the elephants to strive and to keep the poachers out.

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