Watch the story HERE
Every 15 minutes an elephant is killed. Why? For its ivory. That ivory then makes its way from Africa right here to the United States. We are the number two country for ivory trading after China according to wildlife activists.
Yesterday I was in Times Square for a giant "Ivory Crush." Officials with U.S. Fish and Wildlife brought in an industrial rock crusher to destroy one ton of ivory confiscated from stores around the U.S. that were illegally selling it. It was a collection made up of small statues and knickknacks that you'd find in antique stores or junk shops. An ivory trading ban went into effect in New York state last year, but experts agree the illegal sale likely continues in stores around the city. When there is demand, people will sell...
I traveled to South Africa in the spring and had the great fortune to see some gorgeous elephants in their habitat in the bush. They are gigantic absolutely breathtaking creatures, moving in what seems like slow motion as they clomp through the bush, seeking out food water and shade. According to the World Wildlife Fund the African Elephant is species currently "vulnerable," one level away from endangered. To think in twenty years few would continue to roam freely, as some wildlife experts predict, is heartbreaking.
Perhaps even more upsetting is the plight of Rhinos. There are five northern white rhinos left in the world. THE WORLD! Only one, Sudan, is a male. Researchers at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya where he lives surrounded by armed guards 24/7 say he is too old to reproduce. So barring a scientific breakthrough, the species is almost gone.
When I was in South Africa game rangers told us right now rhinos are THE most sought after animal by poachers. In the game reserve I visited, Madikwe, the black rhino, currently listed as critically endangered, is the most lucrative target for poachers. While the rangers will radio about lions, leopards, even elephants to tell each other where to bring tourists for the best views there is a code of silence when it comes to the rhinos for fear hungry poachers will be listening.
Demand for rhino horn in Asia is soaring. Some people there are convinced that he horn of the mighty male can do everything from improve sexual competency to cure cancer. There is no medical or scientific proof for ANY of this!
Traveling to Africa opened my eyes to this looming crisis. Hopefully the highly visible and audible Ivory Crush helped inform others yesterday. But until more people are aware and make a conscious effort to halt demand by refusing to buy items made from exotic animal parts, be it decorative art, jewelry or medicine, the situation will only get worse.