On Sept 22, 2016, Prince William gave a keynote speech on the declining elephant numbers at the Time for Change charity event.
The event was broadcast live in Johannesburg and Tokyo ahead of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and was organized by Tusk, a British conservation charity with Prince William as Royal Patron. In his keynote address, Prince William delivered a sobering message about declining elephant numbers in Africa.
According to the final report from the 2016 Great Elephant Census (GEC), there was a 30 per cent decline (144,000) in savannah elephant numbers between 2007 and 2014. Prince William stated he was “not prepared to be part of a generation that lets these iconic species disappear from the wild.” He further stated that by the time his daughter turns 25, there will no longer be wild elephants roaming the African savannah—if the current rate of poaching continues.
According to the GEC survey, the current rate of decline in the savannah elephant species is eight per cent per year. This is primarily due to poaching for ivory, but other factors include habitat loss and human-elephant conflict. Large proportions of elephants live outside protected areas, encroaching on small farming communities; farmers often kill elephants to protect their land and crops from damage.
Survey results also indicated that a high number of savannah elephant carcasses were found in protected areas, suggesting a greater need for security as poachers are breaching conservation zones.
Prince William urged members of CITES to not be complacent, to not let materialistic greed “win against our moral duty to protect threatened species and vulnerable communities,” and to unite by declaring the ivory trade “a symbol of destruction, not of luxury.” According to GEC statistics, there are only 352,271 savannah elephants left in Africa. Saving the remaining elephants requires the global community to apply increased pressure on governments to crack down on the ivory trade and illegal poaching, to preserve habitat, and to educate communities beyond the continent. Consumers need to understand that purchasing ivory threatens the future of the savannah elephant species, as they are killed for their tusks.
Despite a global trade ban on ivory since 1989, countries such as China and Japan perpetuate both the legal and illegal trade of ivory domestically and internationally. The crisis surpasses individual consumers buying ivory trinkets.
The declining elephant numbers are bleak and governments are not acting quickly enough to reclassify the savannah elephant to Appendix I—the highest threat level assigned by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). This would effectively end commercial trade. Fortunately, there are ways for individuals to help protect these majestic and threatened creatures: volunteering with a conservation organization in Africa, hosting a fundraiser, learning more about the elephant crisis, not purchasing ivory products, or pursuing a career in wildlife conservation. Donating money to charities is also a good place to start. Some of these organizations include:
Elephants Without Borders: http://elephantswithoutborders.org/
Save the Elephants: http://savetheelephants.org/
For more information on the Great Elephant Census, visit http://www.greatelephantcensus.com/.