From: Roger Greenway, ENN
Published August 13, 2013 06:20 AM

World Elephant Day draws our attention to the plight of these magnificent animals

Yesterday was the second World Elephant Day. World Elephant Day was started in 2012 to focus attention on declining elephant numbers and ways that we can collectively do something about it. Fact is, humans are largely responsible! This is and elephantine task, and we are happy to, in our own way, draw attention to the effort that the World Elephant day organization is undertaking.

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Since the first World Elephant Day one year ago, has anything changed?

Ivory poaching and trafficking crimes, and human-elephant conflict tragedies have continued to escalate taking the lives of both elephants and humans in Africa and Asia. In countries such as Sumatra and Sri Lanka, much of the endangered Asian elephants’ remaining precious habitat is being bulldozed down to make room for palm oil plantations or superhighways, all in the name of development. Although in countries from continental Africa and Asia to the USA there have been some poachers arrested, and tons of smuggled illegal ivory seized, this has made little impact on the multi-billion dollar black market industry that continues to drive the trade. It’s clear that enforcement policies and penalties are still too weak to make a difference to the kingpins behind the scenes. Meanwhile anti-poaching squads in African countries such as Kenya, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo bravely risk their lives to stop the poachers, but in many cases are no match for these heavily armed gunmen. Much about these issues has been reported by scores of journalists, advocates and conservation NGOs, from the big to the small. There are countless organizations that have been tirelessly working at all levels to bring attention to these issues and to what we can do about it.

'At the political level, some government leaders are starting to acknowledge the impacts and scope of the illegal wildlife trade. Political will, policy changes, stepping-up law enforcement and cooperation between all the stakeholder countries is ultimately necessary to stop wildlife crime. Working through this complexity is going to take time but we must be aware that time is something that the elephants do not have.

Optimistically, one positive development that has evolved over this past year has been a steady increase in public awareness about the severity of these issues and the pending demise of not only the elephants, but many other animals such as wolves, rhinos, lions, tigers, gorillas, sharks, dolphins, whales, pangolin, pandas — and the list goes on and on. It seems that elephants evoke the deepest emotional response in people and brings into focus the urgency of these issues. Elephants are the beacon, the iconic keystone species that touches the hearts of people worldwide and calls attention to what needs to remain wild and protected from the accelerating demands of global greed.

While the big NGOs campaign against these atrocities and lobby governments to take action on the international stage, it is increasingly important to recognize the role of the ordinary person and what we can do to make a difference. When united, ordinary people become an unassuming army of passionate advocates who are free from politics and bureaucracies. Like the approach of a distant rumbling thunder, ordinary people have been independently and steadily building a grassroots movement to speak out for not only elephants, but all animals and nature.

Much of this grassroots awareness exists because of social media. In this parallel universe of cyberspace, information and sentiments can be shared across borders and time zones. If awareness, sentiment and corresponding thoughts are real things then these are the seeds of future action.

Elephant photo via Shutterstock.

Read more at World Elephant Day.

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