Elephant Girl’s Campaign: United We Save

This guest blog was written by Celia Ho, also known as “The Elephant Girl,” who is leading a movement to save elephants from poaching. As noted by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the White House’s Forum to Counter Wildlife Trafficking, 96 elephants are killed each day. What can you do to stop the bloodshed? Read on…

Elephants_baby_Flickr_scorbette37Badges of wealth vary widely, from jewels to Rolex watches. In recent decades, however, there has come another one – ivory, which is regarded as both a symbol of status and a substance from which religious icons are made. As a result, however, African elephants have been the victims of this outrageous trend.

I am Celia Ho, nicknamed ‘The Elephant Girl’ by Jane Goodall. I started to be interested in elephants when I first read the cover story “Blood Ivory,” written by Bryan Christy in National Geographic. It inspired me a lot and I have also comprehended the troubles elephants are facing. For the sake of satisfying the limitless hunger of ivory collectors, at least 25,000 to 35,000 elephants are killed every year. Picture the scene. Smell the death. It’s cruel and inhumane.

Not only elephants are suffering, but also humans. Some of the money made from selling ivory is then used to purchase weapons used in the continent’s various conflicts. Besides, many courageous rangers are killed every year when defending elephants and rhinos. Too many lives have been paying for the ivory trade.

Elephants are important to forest regeneration and create habitats for many animals when they disperse seeds by eating fruit. Therefore, poaching elephants affects the eco-system.

CeliaHo_poster

These were why I started my campaign to help them get out of this inhuman trench and inspire others to protect elephants with essays, songs, videos and public speech. With people united, we can save elephants from the bloody poaching.

There are basically three parts of my campaign. The first part is drawing ivory consumers’ attention so that the demand for ivory can be reduced. And the second part is educating young people, especially in China, because they have the greatest possibility to become future ivory consumers. The last part is drawing international attention on this ivory trade issue.

Everyone has his or her power, which is very influential. They can make good use of their social network, by maybe writing a status on Facebook or sending a letter to newspapers, just like I have done. They can also educate people around them and their parents, because they all have the possibility to become ivory consumers. Young people’s voices can be heard easily, and they are always noticed by others.

Tell people around you not to buy ivory.

The supply of ivory is no longer sustainable. It is time for us to rectify our mistakes before an irreversible disaster occurs. Please stop devastating a species that is already losing ground. Before they become extinct, let’s save them, and our planet as well.

This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State. 

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Hillary Clinton recently announced an $80 million, three-year program to protect Africa’s wild elephants from poaching. The program is aimed at ending ivory trafficking, including new park guards at major elephant ranges and sniffer-dog teams at global transit points. 

“Unless the killing stops, African forest elephants are expected to be extinct within 10 years. I can’t even grasp what a great disaster this is ecologically, but also for everyone who shares this planet,” Clinton said. Read more on the Save the Elephants website

The Importance of Elephants

Photo of elephants beside waterDid you know that ivory trades at $1,000 (USD) per pound? It’s a high fee for a small part of the majestic animals that roam sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. That money also drives the increased killing of thousands of elephants, making the equation on saving elephants easy to understand.

“If the buying stops, the killing can too,” says Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants.

Dr. Douglas-Hamilton, who was recently in Washington, D.C., to brief people about the ongoing elephant crisis, spoke with us about the importance of elephants and ways to save them – and you don’t have to live in a country with elephants to make a difference.

“The average person can help save elephants by knowing what’s happening with them,” says Douglas-Hamilton. “Elephants are really threatened by the ivory trade. So never buy or sell ivory.”

Elephants are also getting a boost from U.S. President Barack Obama, who recently toured Africa, where he promised to help countries curb the threat of illegal wildlife trade — and did. President Obama followed up on his word by issuing an executive order and pledging millions of dollars to put it into action. As noted in White House press comments and reported by SustainableBusiness.com, this order includes:

  • $10 million across various U.S. agencies to improve protection for threatened wildlife populations in key African countries;
  • A presidential task force on wildlife trafficking to develop a national strategy within six months to fight wildlife crime, led by the Secretaries of State and Treasury and the U.S. attorney general;
  • A review of the U.S. federal government’s transnational organized crime strategy to consider adding wildlife trafficking to the list of crimes it covers, elevating it to the same level as arms, drug and human trafficking.

There are many reasons why saving elephants is important, such as their impact on the environments they live in, like creating waterholes in a drought that other animals can use too. According to Douglas-Hamilton, it is the similarities to ourselves and the similar values we share with elephants that are also key.

“Elephants are important to us because they are part of our world,” says Douglas-Hamilton. “They are important, intelligent mammals. They share the same life span as us, … They show qualities we admire in ourselves. They have compassion. And in times of difficulty, danger or stress, they stick together. So, for all of those reasons, they deserve our respect.”

Don’t you agree?

 

Biodiversity and Why it Matters

This guest blog was written by Dr. Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair of Marine Science at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Dr. Knowlton recently completed a tour in Manila, Batangas, and Quezon City, where she spoke with students, academics, government officials and museum curators about coral reefs, biodiversity conservation efforts and marine research in the PhilippinesDr. Knowlton’s visit to the Philippines was coordinated through support from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Manila. 

Turn over a big rock in the woods and see lots of critters dash or creep for cover. If you lift up rocks in a tide pool (a pool of seawater along the shore refilled by the tide), you will similarly discover a community of organisms you might never have suspected even existed. (Remember to always place the rock back carefully so that they don’t lose their homes.)

No matter where you look, there are different kinds of animals, plants, fungi and microbes making a living on our planet, often unnoticed by us. This is biodiversity and it is everywhere, often hiding in plain sight. But if we don’t usually notice this biodiversity, does it make a difference? Would it matter if the living world consisted of just the common animals and plants we count on to feed us and produce the things we need to make our homes and run our factories?

Dr. Knowlton meet with students and researchers from De La Salle University and the University of the Philippines at the Br. Alfred Shields Marine Biological Station in Lian, Batangas, for hands-on consultations and a dive to an area where these institutions are carrying out research in coral reef conservation.

Losing most of the planet’s biodiversity would not just make for a much more boring world, but also many of the things we take for granted would no longer happen. Did you enjoy an apple recently? Then thank the bee that pollinated the apple flower.  Have you noticed that our pathways and beaches are not thickly littered with the stinking corpses of dead animals?  Then say thank you to the planet’s undertakers: scavengers great and small, from vultures to tiny insects and microbes, who turn the bodies of the dead into nutrients for new life. Do you enjoy swimming in clear water? If so, be grateful for oysters and sponges, who, after filtering the water for food, return it in a much cleaner state. Had a fish dinner recently? Depending on what you ate, you might want to send a note of appreciation to the coastal seagrasses or mangrove forests that provided it shelter when it was young.

Consider a tiny fish from Fiji that serves as a bodyguard for the corals it calls home. Only last year did we learn that when a nasty species of seaweed that can kill coral settles nearby, the coral sends out a chemical call for help. Within minutes, the tiny fish removes the threat by eating the seaweed. In doing so, that little fish doesn’t just help the coral; it helps us too. The coral creates the reef that in turn provides food, attractions for tourists with the jobs that they bring, and protection for coastal communities against storm waves and tsunamis. Hiding within the branches of these corals are also medicines waiting to be discovered, such as from cone snails.  Their lovely shells appeal to collectors, but even more important is the cocktail of poisons that the living cone snails use to catch their prey—deadly to fish, but for us, they are valuable sources of painkillers and possible treatments for arthritis or cancer.

So does biodiversity matter?  What do you think?

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This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.    

Saving the Clouded Leopard

This blog is part of the

protecting endangered species series by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

According to a recent article in the Jakarta Post (Indonesia),  the West Sumatra Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) saved a Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), which was stuck between two tree branches for at least three days.  Several days ago the leopard entered farms in the Solok area of West Sumatra and was chased by villagers .  Although clouded leopards spend up to 80% of their time in trees, and are built for climbing, up, down, and backwards; somehow this one got stuck.  The leopard was anesthetized and taken to the Bukit Tinggi zoo for care and feeding. When the clouded leopard is strong enough he will be released back into the forest.

Clouded leopards can weigh up to 50 pounds in the tropical forests of South East Asia. Even though they are relatively small, their tooth development is like that of the extinct saber tooth tiger and their 2-inch long canines are the same size as those of a tiger, a cat about 10 times its size! Historically, four sub-species, ( the Sunda being one) have been known, but since they are solitary and usually nocturnal, they are rarely seen in the wild.  The total population of clouded tigers is unknown, but deforestation and illegal hunting for

traditional medicine and pelts is expected to be a cause of their decline. For more information, click here.

This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.

The Endangered Homerus Swallowtail Butterfly

This blog is part of the protecting endangered species series by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

The Homerus Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio homerus/Pterourus homerus) has been on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) endangered species list since 1988. It is reputed to be the largest swallowtail butterfly in the Americas with a wingspan of six inches.  It can be found in wet limestone forests and lower montane rain forests. The adults are active throughout the daytime, feeding intermittently on the nectar of various flowers, and basking on the foliage of trees and bushes. The larvae seem to feast on only one genus of plants, Hernandia.

In 2007 the Homerus Swallowtail butterfly was found in only two sites in Jamaica.  Its main threats are deforestation and commercial collecting, parasite infection of the eggs, and bacterial infection of the larvae and pupae.  It is listed on the Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix I, meaning it cannot be legally sold outside of Jamaica. For further information, click here.

This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government

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or the Department of State.

Elephant Flying Squad

An African Elephant trying to reach leaves in Kenya

An African Elephant trying to reach leaves in Kenya

Elephants are being poached for their tusks, which are made of ivory. The demand for ivory is highest in China, and to supply that demand tens of thousands of elephants across Africa are being killed each year for their tusks.

Elephants are not only beautiful, majestic creatures, but they are also incredibly important to local ecosystems. The “Why They Matter” section of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Website on African elephants states that, “The presence of African elephants helps to maintain suitable habitats for a myriad other species. In central African forests, up to 30 percent of tree species may require elephants to help with dispersal and germination. They play a pivotal role in shaping their habitat because of the enormous impact they have on factors ranging from fresh water to forest cover.”

For some people, elephants are a serious nuisance because they can eat crops or destroy land, but there are groups that are striving to help man and animals co-exist. Peaceful coexistence is the first step to valuing elephants and their benefits to the environment.

In Sumatra, the habitat of elephants is being rapidly cleared, leaving smaller and smaller areas for elephants to roam. As their habitat disappears, so do their food sources, so they often go looking for food at farms and commercial plantations. The conflict that arises between these elephants and people protecting their crops was dangerous for all parties involved, so in 2004 the World Wildlife Fund started an Elephant Flying Squad.

The flying squad is helping people live in harmony with elephants and recognize their importance to ecosystems. The Flying Squad is made up of “[R]angers, noise and light-making devices, a truck, and four trained elephants that drive wild elephants back into the forests if they threaten to enter villages.” The humans and elephants went through training to bond with each other and become partners, and their efforts were so successful that one Flying Squad expanded into four in the Riau Province. The immediate action of separating elephants and humans allows for more sustained education and conservation efforts, such as World Wildlife Fund research on elephants and working with local communities and organizations to spread the message that “there is space for humans and elephants to coexist.”

October’s theme is…Protecting Endangered Species!

Baby elephantThis month on the blog we will focus on protecting endangered species. Throughout the month, we will explore direct and indirect threats to plant and animal species and will showcase efforts of conservation organizations around the world to protect them.

What is the difference between a

threatened and endangered species? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Endangered species are those plants and animals that have become so rare they are in danger of becoming extinct. Threatened species are plants and animals that are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

So what are some of these endangered animals? Rhinos, elephants and tigers are some of the big land mammals you probably recognize. But there are also smaller and lesser-known animals facing serious threats, as well as a variety of plants and other animal species. We will explore the causes of their endangerment, which include habitat loss resulting from human development, pollution, the illegal wildlife trade and climate change.

We will also showcase some of the conservation organizations that work not only to protect threatened or endangered species, but also the root causes of their danger. A large part of these efforts involve educating communities about how vital these species are to local ecosystems, environment and economy and devising plans to help humans and other species

learn to better coexist.

Baby Asian elephant in an elephant conservation center in Laos.This month on the blog we will focus on protecting endangered species. Throughout the month, we will explore direct and indirect threats to plant and animal species and will showcase efforts of conservation organizations around the world to protect them.

What is the difference between a threatened and endangered species? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Endangered species are those plants and animals that have become so rare they are in danger of becoming extinct. Threatened species are plants and animals that are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

So what are some of these endangered animals? Rhinos, elephants andtigers are some of the big land mammals you probably recognize. But there are also smaller and lesser-known animals facing serious threats, as well as a variety of plants and other animal species. We will explore the causes of their endangerment, which include habitat loss resulting from human development, pollution, the illegal wildlife trade and climate change.

We will also showcase some of the conservation organizations that work not only to protect threatened or endangered species, but also the root causes of their danger. A large part of these efforts involve educating communities about how vital these species are to local ecosystems, environment and economy and devising plans to help humans and other species learn to better coexist.
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