Wildlife Conservation Society

Battle for the Elephants

Unless we take decisive action now, we're facing a future without elephants.
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In 2012, poachers killed some 35,000 African elephants for their tusks.

It was the worst mass slaughter since international ivory trade was banned in 1989. If the poaching continues, African forest elephants face near extinction in 10 years, with East Africa’s savannah elephants not far behind. The reasons: inadequate protection for elephants, insufficient efforts to halt ivory trafficking, and skyrocketing demand for ivory. Rising East Asian consumer wealth fuels the demand; organized crime cartels control the traffic.

WCS is leading the charge to counter the slaughter. For decades we have stemmed poaching where we work, protected habitat, and helped elephant populations recover. But rising demand for ivory requires new efforts to ensure their future.

Our Conservation Mission

Stop the Killing

WCS and our partners work to stop criminals from slaughtering elephants in some of their largest habitats in Central and Eastern Africa. Together with governments and local communities, we recruit, equip, train, and deploy ecoguards. We use local intelligence networks and aerial surveillance to focus enforcement, and ensure patrols get the backup they need from the police, army, and courts.

These methods work: forest elephant densities are seven times higher where they are protected. But pressure is mounting. In four landscapes of Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, and Mozambique where we have recently launched elephant protection programs, 44,000 elephants are at immediate risk. We need to redouble our efforts.

Stop the Trafficking

WCS aids governments in detecting smuggled ivory at key ports and airports along the trade chain in Africa and Asia. Our sniffer dogs root out ivory in transit. In addition, we support police, customs, and judicial authorities to prosecute traffickers.

With WCS support, CITES (the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) has mandated DNA testing of all large-scale seizures of ivory to determine its origin, a critical step in tracing the supply chain. Finally, WCS is working with countries identified by CITES as the eight worst in anti-trafficking to devise and implement action plans that will close trade routes.

Stop the Demand

Seventy percent of illegal ivory ends up as trinkets and carvings for consumers in China. Most do not know that their actions are illegal and lead to elephant killing in Africa.

To reduce the demand in China, WCS is harnessing the most powerful platform for cultural change and public participation: social media. This strategy will deliver compelling information about elephants and the real cost of ivory using diverse online channels and a network of Chinese partner institutions. Our goal is to work in the background and catalyze change, to increase awareness so that Chinese citizens themselves will demand public action.

Learn more about this crisis:
Watch National Geographic Television’s Battle for the Elephants >>

Together We Can Save Africa's Elephants

To meet this new challenge, we need your help to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand. Congress controls funding for USAID Biodiversity programs that help combat poaching and save elephants. But the funding faces potential elimination from this year’s budget, right when elephants need it the most.

Tell your members of Congress to support conservation programs that elephants depend on...before it's too late.

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Photo Credits: © Foley (top); © Tom Milliken/TRAFFIC (seized tusks); © WCS/ESRI (map); © Ruth Starkey/WCS (sniffer dog); © Manhattan District Attorney’s Office (ivory trinkets)