June 17, 2015

Jared Leto: How to Save the World’s Elephants

June 16, 2015

Jared Leto is an Academy-Award winning actor, musician, director, entrepreneur and World Wildlife Fund Global Ambassador. Carter Roberts is president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund.

The U.S. must end its commercial ivory trade

The world’s attention is fixed on the U.S. to make the next big move to save the world’s remaining elephants.

Tanzania recently announced that its elephant population has fallen by 60% in just the past five years—a death toll of nearly 70,000. Across Africa, about 30,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory. In response, the world’s governments, nonprofits and philanthropists have mounted an array of efforts to stop the tide of killings that could eventually drive these magnificent animals to extinction. But we will not win the war against illegal ivory trafficking unless we address demand at its source. And the U.S., surprisingly, has an ivory problem.

After China, the U.S. may be the second-largest market for wildlife products in the world, and investigations continue to uncover surprising volumes of ivory being sold in the U.S., much of it contraband. In 2013, the U.S. government destroyed a huge stockpile of confiscated ivory in a public stand against elephant poaching and ivory trafficking. This Friday, less than two years later, it will pulverize another ton in Times Square. All of it illegal. All of it from dead elephants.

The U.S. ivory market is small compared to China’s. Researchers have called China “the singlemost important contemporary player in the illicit trade of ivory.” The good news is that China appears to be making a power play to change this perception. At a recent ceremony in Beijing, where more than half a ton of ivory was destroyed as a sign of the country’s commitment to stopping wildlife crime, the Chinese government stunned conservationists by announcing plans to phase out its domestic ivory market—entirely. This is a potential game-changer. If China makes good on this promise, Africa’s elephants may actually have a fighting chance.

Continue reading on Time.

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