This is a question I have been asked many times over the past 7 years since founding Elephanatics, an elephant advocacy organization in Vancouver, B.C.
Elephanatics recently formed a coalition of organizations to include the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, Humane Society International-Canada, Global March for Elephants and Rhinos – Toronto, and World Elephant Day. Together we created the #IvoryFreeCanada campaign to address the reasons elephants are important globally and the need to close the domestic trade of elephant ivory in Canada.
As a local grassroots organization, our mission has been to assist global elephant conservation efforts by educating Canadians about issues of ivory poaching, habitat loss, and the continued exploitation of elephants by humans, and to connect Canadians directly with elephant conservation partners in Africa and Asia. We do this through our three pillars of advocacy – Education, Conservation and Action.
We have brought significant awareness about the elephant crises to schools in the lower mainland, as well as a great number of schools in the San Diego area, with our education lesson plans and classroom presentations. Our Global March for Elephants and Rhinos has drawn a large segment of supporters from greater Vancouver and our coalitions’ #IvoryFreeCanada campaign has received much media attention as well as close to 500,000 petition signatures.
Elephants are an intelligent, iconic and sentient animal that requires our attention to their own importance and their value to the environment. As a keystone species, it contributes to the mitigation of climate change and supports a delicate ecosystem that inadvertently affects us all globally.
The importance of the elephant to its ecosystems and environment has been well documented by scientists. The elephant’s demise is a growing concern. The increase in carbon due to elephant decline in both Africa and Asia is articulated in the article included here written by Brandon Keim, Anthropocene Magazine.
At the recent Convention on International Trade in Flora and Fauna, (CITES CoP18) held in Geneva, Switzerland, an important agenda item had to do with issues surrounding the ongoing protection of elephants. CITES is the forum where governments have agreed to meet every two to three years to regulate the international trade of wildlife and wildlife products. Parties at CITES CoP-18), confirmed their commitment to the closure of domestic ivory markets, agreeing by consensus to focus scrutiny on remaining open markets such as Japan and the EU. Furthermore, parties that have not closed their domestic markets for commercial trade in raw & worked ivory will be requested to report on what measures they are taking to ensure that their domestic ivory markets are not contributing to poaching or illegal trade. It is assumed that Canada, as a signatory of CITES will – as do all other Parties – be required to report the measures they are taking and submit them to CITES.
Our goal as a coalition is to close the domestic trade of elephant ivory in Canada, thereby protecting elephants. Reporting on the measures our country will take to ensure we are not contributing to the trade will not prevent the slaughter of these animals. Canada is now in the minority of countries not closing their domestic markets, and there is no excuse. Why is Canada hesitant in taking a stronger force of action in regards to an issue that is also an environmental, global concern?
Any legal domestic trade is a conduit for illegal trade. As long as there are loopholes in the system, criminal activity will continue to disrupt economies worldwide and threaten to bring elephants to extinction for unconscionable purposes such as producing trinkets! Many countries to include the UK, Australia, France, Netherlands, Israel, Singapore, China, and several US states, have closed their domestic markets. We need to stand in solidarity with these countries in order to save a keystone species and to lessen the crime and corruption that ensues from the continued trade of elephant ivory. We believe we can liaise with the government on how best to implement a workable ban on the domestic elephant ivory trade, with exemptions similar to that of other countries.
We thank you for your support.
President – Elephanatics