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
#IvoryFreeCanada Petition Update – August, 2019
Hello Elephant Supporters,
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (referred to as CITIES) has just concluded its most recent meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on August 28th. This convention (CITES CoP-18), is the forum where governments have agreed to meet every two to three years to regulate the international trade of wildlife and wildlife products. This includes everything from live animals and plants, food, leather goods, and trinkets made from animal parts.
An important agenda item at this meeting had to do with issues surrounding the ongoing protection of elephants. We are pleased to share some good news that came out of the convention. Although in Canada we have not yet closed the domestic trade of elephant ivory, here is a brief synopsis of what other countries proposed and the voting results below.
1) Zambia’s proposal to down-list their elephants from Appendix 1 to 2 was REJECTED. A WIN!
2) The proposal to amend Appendix 2 of CITES concerning enabling resumption of trade in registered raw ivory on elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe was DEFEATED. A WIN!
3) The proposal to export live African Elephants outside of their home range of Africa to zoos and other countries was DEFEATED. (with some exemptions) A BIG WIN!
4) Yahoo Japan will end the sale of ivory on the country’s biggest online auction site, joining competitors in a ban. A WIN!
5) Israel and Australia announced a ban on domestic ivory trade. A WIN!
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 have to, as do all other Parties that have not closed their domestic markets for commercial trade in raw and worked ivory, 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.
Unfortunately, a proposal by Kenya, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Libera, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic and Togo to Up-list the four Elephant populations in southern Africa to Appendix 1 from the current Appendix 2, therefore prohibiting all international commercial trade in African ivory, was rejected.
Although it was an excellent outcome for the African elephant at CITES COP-18, intense challenges in improving livelihoods, law enforcement, and closure of domestic ivory markets still remain.
The time is now to be responsible and close the domestic trade of elephant ivory in Canada. We have almost reached our goal of 500,000 signatures! Another WIN! Please keep signing and sharing.
As a FYI –All species of giraffe (who are facing extinction) were uplisted to Appendix 2, which is an important step in regulating trade, and preventing any illegal and unsustainable trade for future generations. A BIG WIN!
You can read the final CITES report here:
The Ivory-Free Canada Coalition
Read our coalition’s letter to Minister Catherine Mckenna, dated July 5, 2019, regarding the legal domestic trade in elephant ivory. Our coalition agrees it is an excellent opportunity for the Government of Canada to champion global wildlife conservation by announcing its intention to end the domestic trade of elephant ivory in Canada.
CITES is meeting NOW making decisions about POACHING, IVORY TRADE, TROPHY HUNTING, and increased PROTECTION for Wildlife.
Their fate requires our ACTION NOW! ❤🐘🦁❤ Please SIGN letter in link below. Thank you!🙏
🐘⚡🐘 ACTION. CITES. CoP18. PLEASE ACT!
Please sign the letter; please sign even if you have signed before; we are collecting signatures anew. Once you’ve signed the letter, please do go over to the tweet sheet and tweet out our DEMANDS.
You can tweet over the duration of CoP18. Aug17-Aug28th, 2019.
We call on CITES @CoP18 to:
1. 🐘🦏⚡Exempt all animals listed on Appendix I and II from trophy hunting and trade in their body parts and live animals.
2. 🐘🦏⚡Demand that Japan and the EU close down their domestic ivory trade.
3. 🐘🦏⚡Ban animals with Appendix I and II status from captive breeding; their body parts/bones fuel the illegal wildlife trade and the demand for endangered species.
4. 🐘🦏⚡Vote in favour of proposals to uplist elephants to Appendix I and giraffes to Appendix II.
5. 🐘🦏⚡Reject proposals by certain SADC countries to re-open trade in ivory and other elephant body parts and in rhino horn.
6. 🐘🦏⚡Establish greater transparency in CITES’ issuing of permits, specifically permits for hunting trophies and export of live endangered species.
The ongoing slaughter of African elephants for their tusks has decimated elephant populations. Today, this magnificent animal is highly endangered and on the brink of extinction. Since 1980, the number of elephants in Africa has fallen from 1.3 million to just over 400,000. Currently, an estimated 20,000 elephants are killed every year for their ivory. At this rate, they will be erased from the wild in our lifetime.
Countries that have banned the domestic sale of elephant ivory within their borders, or are in the process of doing so, include China, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Belgium, Luxembourg, and several states in the United States. The Canadian government has not complied as yet. Shockingly, Canada is directly contributing to the destruction of one of the planet’s largest, most intelligent and most iconic species by keeping its elephant ivory market open for business!
Canada also legally permits elephant trophies to be imported. Between 2007 and 2016, Canada allowed the importation of 83 trophy elephants, 434 elephant skulls and 260 elephant feet.
The following organizations are working together as a coalition to act in concert to end the legal trade in elephant ivory in Canada: Elephanatics, Humane Society International-Canada; World Elephant Day; Global March Elephants and Rhinos – Toronto; and the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada. Please join the Ivory-Free Canada coalition and tell our government to end the legal domestic trade of elephant ivory. Look for our campaign – #IvoryFreeCanada.
Here’s how you can help save elephants:
Thanks for joining our herd!
Read our letter to the Canadian Government sent July 5th, 2019
“There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne — bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.”
Karen Blixen (Danish author best known for “Out of Africa”, her account of living in Kenya)
…. And so begins my journey to Kenya, Africa
The exotic lure of Africa, rife with rich culture and history, was a destination I had been anticipating for years. Having spent the past seven years building Elephanatics, I knew the time had come to heed the call of the elephants and make my sojourn to the land of mystical sunsets and magical people. Nothing could prepare me for the exhilaration of viewing lions, elephants, wildebeests, warthogs, cheetahs, and numerous other species in their natural settings, as close as four feet from our jeep. Not to omit the bellowing hippos outside our tent on the Mara River that woke us up every morning and charmed us all day long as they fought for territory and kept other animals at bay! Adventures come in all sizes and shapes, but an open jeep safari is as big as it gets! The trick to remember is – NEVER laugh when an elephant has its back to you! I found out the hard way after giggling from a funny episode an elephant had performed – she rightly turned around and gave us the ‘ears forward’ charge position, lunging at the jeep and stopping at 3 feet away. Thank goodness she sensed I was not a threat and retracted. My stomach hasn’t been the same since!
Our first stop was to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust where we visited our three adopted orphans, Larro, Nabulu and Panda. The keepers explained the situation of how the orphans arrived and what their due diligence and care of the orphans entail. The keepers spend day and night with the babies, sleeping in the same quarters, tending to their every need and comforting them when they have bad dreams – yes, elephants have bad dreams, too! They slowly integrate them back into the wild, but it takes years of love and patience to get them to that point. It was a tender moment; my appreciation for what they do has no bounds.
The Karen Blixen Camp came by recommendation from the Mara Elephant Project (MEP). Dr. Jake Wall, director for MEP and also for Elephanatics, and Marc Goss, CEO of the Mara Elephant Project, were instrumental in making sure our stay was as comfortable as possible and it most certainly was! The genuine friendliness and service of the staff at Karen Blixen was articulated in every meal and activity we took part in. I would highly suggest KBC as your first choice when searching for a luxury safari experience. They are best known for responsible tourism, making sure their business benefits the environment and the people working at the camp and communities nearby. After a tour of their facilities, it was evident they are leaders in this genre.
Our guide, Jack, led the way with his knowledge of the local flora and fauna and introduced us to a world of stories about the Maasai people, their culture, the landscape area and rules to be obeyed between the conservancies and farmers. Storytelling is still the way used by most communities to pass cultural knowledge and history from one generation to another. Because of the varied heritages and cultures in East Africa, storytelling is a way to help bring them together. Each group, lending flavour to their own unique tale, interprets versions of the same story differently. I experienced this ‘bush telegram’ communication upon receiving news that someone had been killed in the village earlier that day. When I heard the same story told to us by our guide on our nightly safari, it was slightly different but the crux of the story was the same. It appears storytelling continues in our Western culture as well. The only difference to note in our culture is the opposition of differences of opinion, as opposed to a respectful appreciation of another’s interpretation.
We were fortunate to visit MEP a few times and learn about the ambitious initiatives they are working on. Jake gave us a tour and a presentation about what he is responsible for as the new director of research and conservation. He leads MEP’s applied research agenda aimed at enhancing the protection of elephants and the habitat upon which they and other wildlife depend. He tracks many variables related to the area, including collared elephant movements, human-elephant conflicts, and environmental variables related to elephant movements. He showed us the snares rangers have collected from the Mau forest and the old GPS collars they’ve removed from previously tracked elephants. We met Marc Goss – MEP’s CEO – and learned more about the education program. We were also fortunate enough to meet elephants Hugo, Freddy and Kegol who are tracked with EarthRanger, a real-time technology used for tracking elephants and rangers. Dr. Jake Wall was one of the architects in building this software when working with Vulcan, a Paul Allen company. It was wonderful to see first hand the outstanding work they do, what their future plans are within the Mara to protect elephants and where Elephanatics’ donation dollars go.
The famous wildebeest migration that takes place every year between May and December starting in Tanzania’s Serengeti plains in the south and moving north to Kenya’s Maasai Mara in Kenya, started early this year in the Maasai Mara due to drought in the southern areas and early rains in the north. The best time to see the migration is typically in the dry season between July and October but we lucked out! We avoided the hundreds of tourists that come at that time and endured some rain much to the benefit of viewing one of the seven wonders of Africa. Unfortunately, we also saw the perils at which these great animals risk their lives to find food. Many don’t make it across the river due to high river currents, crocodiles, or going back to find a relative or friend from the herd. The banks can be steep on the river causing slippery conditions in the rain leading to death from a broken leg or becoming maimed, making them a target for prey. The migration is extremely stressful for these beautiful animals and I must admit, I felt somewhat guilty adding to the possible stress they endure by being a tourist. Every year almost two million wildebeests and a host of other animals migrate, making it a prime example of the ‘circle of life’. It was a sight to see and is one of the greatest shows on earth.
The daily tours became a natural way to start the day and end the night while relaxing during the day took on its own meditative quality. Hypnotized by the Mara Rivers gurgling flow and the abundance of animals that came sporadically throughout the day for a drink, sank us all into a state of wonderment and reverence for this beautiful land. The endless beauty of open skies and savannah plains blended with it a sense of calm and caution, a primordial response to the raw nature of the surroundings. Ones true existence can be found in the winds of Africa. Purpose becomes transparent as trees whisper messages of hope, faith and deliverance of justice for all wildlife. We need to listen to these messages and act accordingly – for all our sake.
I could continue to elaborate on the significance of visiting Africa and its benefits to my well-being, but I will not. Some experiences are beyond words. All I can say is if you have been contemplating a trip to Africa – do not hesitate any longer.
“When you leave Africa, as the plane lifts, you feel that more than leaving a continent you’re leaving a state of mind. Whatever awaits you at the other end of your journey will be of a different order of existence.” Francesca Marciano
A special thanks to Karen Blixen Camp staff / Dr. Jake Wall / CEO Marc Goss, MEP
A big thank you to Tessa, Leanne and Jett for all their hard work in my absence.
President / Elephanatics
Some ‘Did You Know’ moments from our safari:
*Jackals, who eat leftovers, bark at lions to wake them up so they hunt.
*Hippos are the most dangerous animal to humans and are responsible for more human death and conflict than elephants!
*Water buffalo is the second most dangerous animal
*At night, Warthogs back themselves into holes dug by Aardvarks for safety and in order to charge out quickly to defend themselves
*Giraffes have chaperones from the family to take care of the young during the day while the mothers graze a short distance away. They head to the village at night for safety from lions but venture far and wide during the day.
* Hyenas are more closely related to cats than dogs. Their dung is white because of the calcium in the bones they eat
* One type of Dung Beetle can navigate by moonlight alone and prefer omnivore feces to herbivore.
*The word elephant in Swahili is ‘ndovu’
Enjoy a few of my pictures from my fantastic adventure. 🙂
Elephanatics Appalled at Thailand’s Decision to Reverse 10-Year Ban on Live Elephant Export
For Immediate Release May 22nd, 2019
Vancouver, BC – The Ministry of Commerce in Thailand has recently issued regulations regarding the rules, procedures and conditions for the export of its elephants. The trade of live elephants to other countries will be permitted, effective June 23, 2019.
The conditions under which the export of Asian elephants would be approved are:
The Asian elephant is officially endangered with a population of less than 50,000 worldwide. Vancouver-based non-profit, Elephanatics, says this will inevitably fuel poaching throughout Asia for ivory, elephant skin, hair and elephants themselves. They strongly oppose the reversal of the ban that has been in place for ten years.
In Thailand there are approximately 3,700 captive working elephants, and around just 1,000 remain in the wild. Asian elephants became an endangered species in 1986. These regulations open a loophole which could allow for illegal trade, threatening the very existence of Thailand’s national symbol.
Captive elephants suffer terribly in captivity. Shortened lifespans, health issues, and emotional trauma from being separated from their herd, defies the standards set by the World Association for Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Many of the countries importing live elephants do not have the weather or environment that elephants can acclimate to, condemning them to a lifetime of suffering.
The trade in elephant parts including elephant skin, hair and ivory fuels an already unmanageable multi-billion dollar illegal trade in wildlife that threatens remaining populations.
“Studies have shown that wherever loopholes exist in the regulation of wildlife trade – and particularly elephants and their parts – it strengthens the illegal black market. Additionally, the emotional intelligence of elephants is well documented. In this day and age it is inexcusable for elephants to be exported for displays in zoos and circuses, for research or as a gift,” says Fran Duthie, president of Elephanatics.
Thailand’s tourism trade has been shifting towards a more ethical model that encourages tourists to experience elephants in a respectful and compassionate fashion. Instead of riding elephants, visitors are encouraged to walk behind them and feed them. Sanctuaries are gaining momentum as tourists learn of the trauma and abuse inflicted on these intelligent and emotional animals.
Elephanatics strongly urges the Thai government to pursue a policy of ethical and compassionate treatment of their national symbol and reinstate the ban on the export of elephants.
Elephanatics is a Vancouver-based elephant advocacy organisation that promotes the long-term survival of African and Asian elephants through conservation, education and action.
Tessa Vanderkop – Director of Advocacy 604-789-8886 email@example.com www.elephanatics.org
Sign the petition that will also go to the government. We need as many signatures as possible (Canadian or international citizens)! Let’s get to 200K signatures! Share it on facebook and twitter.
Elephanatics was very pleased to be part of their event. A big thanks to Lynn Howard and Cynthia Fitzpatrick and Jackie for representing Elephanatics and our #ivoryfreecanada campaign. We appreciate it beyond elephant words
View their terrific video here: GMFER SD 2019
Our April Newsletter is Out! Have a Look at What We’ve Been Up to.