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"I saw one once," said Piglet. "At least, I think I did," he said. "Only perhaps it wasn't."
"So did I," said Pooh, wondering what a Heffalump was like.
"You don't often see them," said Christopher Robin carelessly.
"Not now," said Piglet.
"Not at this time of the year," said Pooh.

Lots of elephant-y things have crossed my path lately. A recent issue of The Economist focused on biodiversity and conservation included a fascinating piece on the success of a demand-side approach to reducing elephant poaching. Back in the 1980s Japan was the largest importer of ivory, at something like 500 tons a year. A group called Traffic launched a campaign to basically make ivory uncool:

[Traffic] worked on the newspapers and helped persuade them to write anti-ivory editorials. But the big breakthrough...came when Britain’s Prince Philip gave a rousing speech at an event organised by the World Wildlife Fund, which encouraged Japan’s crown prince to speak out. “It was the first time that Japanese royalty had taken a stance on a wildlife issue. It was an amazing moment,” says Mr Milliken. Ivory became uncool.

Japanese ivory imports today are down by 90%, to roughly 5 tons a year. Isn't that incredible?? ::does happy dance::

So after that the elephant population rebounded pretty well, but in recent years two things have caused elephant killings to go up again. One is demand in China. To combat this, a group called WildAid is trying the same approach as was done in Japan, only using celebrities, sort of the Chinese version of royalty, I guess. (The picture of the giant basketball player next to the baby elephant is just adorable!) WildAid was really successful in a recent campaign to reduce demand for shark fins in China, so there's a good chance this could help. ::does hopeful dance::

The other problem, though, is terrorists -- Al Shabab, for example, who killed all those people at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. They're using poached ivory to fund their activities. And these aren't some local yokel with a 20-year-old rifle. These guys are organized and they have higher-tech equipment, like night vision goggles and laser scopes, and their effect on the elephants is devastating. The LA Times and Huffington Post both recently ran stories about the ivory/terrorism connection. If there were no market for ivory, these guys couldn't make money on it and they'd leave the elephants alone. Sadly, this also has an indirect death toll because it leaves orphan baby elephants who aren't old enough to survive on their own. ::does sad dance::

This is the sort of thing that makes me wish that homo was more sapiens, or at least that our position at the top of the food chain was automatically accompanied by compassion and rationality...

Well, then yesterday I got a newsletter from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an elephant rescue operation I've contributed to for years in honor of my grandparents. The DSWT is an organization in Kenya that rescues/raises orphan baby elephants and then returns them to the wild. They're a fantastic organization, founded by a British woman (Dame Daphne Sheldrick) but staffed and run largely by native Kenyans, and the work they do is incredibly important. The newsletter mentioned that they're currently doing a fund-raising campaign -- sponsored by Kristen Davis of Sex and the City, of all people! -- on crowdrise, including a video with some beautiful footage of elephants in the wild. This gave me mixed emotions because yay! publicity and they're doing well with their campaign, but sad :( that they are busier than ever with so many orphaned elephants to care for.

Christmas is coming -- maybe you know somebody who's hard to buy for? You could contribute to the campaign in their name, or foster a baby elephant in their honor!


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Oct. 20th, 2013 05:26 pm (UTC)
Saw a Ted talk on a woman banker who studied terrorism, and they are all well funded, financial organizations. They run like corporations with expense reports, etc. The funny part is human resources for terrorists organazations.

But YAY! Yes, reduce the demand for a product and you destroy it's market until someone tries to make it popular again.

Too bad there is no death penalty for poachers.
Oct. 20th, 2013 09:14 pm (UTC)
*Nods* There was a bit in the book Freakonomics, a chapter entitled "Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?' about how the drug gangs are run like corporations -- they compared it to McDonald's, in fact. The ones at the top make obscene amounts of money, but the drug dealers out on the street don't make enough to live off of, let alone live high on the hog. It's a fascinating book that explores how economics effects everything and isn't dry reading at all.
Oct. 22nd, 2013 09:45 pm (UTC)
I have that on my to-read list, I may have to move it up. Another recent issue of The Economist had an op-ed on why Breaking Bad is a great primer for how to run a successful business (apart, presumably, from the shooting people).
Oct. 22nd, 2013 09:44 pm (UTC)
Too bad there is no death penalty for poachers.

Mr Psmith is of the opinion they should be tied between four elephants and pulled apart...
Oct. 22nd, 2013 10:56 pm (UTC)
Heee....yeah that would be fitting.
Oct. 20th, 2013 08:26 pm (UTC)
Hee, it's nice to see Phil the Greek do something useful.

Oct. 22nd, 2013 09:49 pm (UTC)
Poor guy, he don't get no respect. He has racked up a couple of honors just for sticking around, though: longest-serving and oldest-ever spouse of a reigning British monarch and the oldest-ever male member of the British royal family! (I guess they're not claiming descent from Noah anymore lol)
Oct. 23rd, 2013 05:54 am (UTC)
Oh we're fond of him.
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