Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Elephant In the Room Needs Our Help

My husband, Drew, and I spent an evening recently learning about elephants, specifically African elephants, killed for their tusks. It's not an event we would have routinely attended had it not been for an Arkansas connection, Chelsea Clinton. Although she and her parents now live in New York, we shared the same state when President Clinton was Governor Clinton.  We have seen Chelsea grow up in the media and respect the work she does and causes she supports, particularly as Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation. Partnership to Save Africa's Elephants is a Clinton Global Initiative.

(photo credit Joshua Young)
The panel discussion, moderated by Chelsea, was held at the Deepak Chopra HomeBase at ABC Carpet and Home Store. This unique gathering space on the mezzanine of a busy retail store, is where I attended the exhibit of Thich Nhat Hanh's meditative calligraphy in December.  For the current event, the walls were lined with photographs of elephants taken by National Geographic Explorer in Residence, Beverly Joubert.  Elephants going about the daily business of their lives, unaware that their ivory tusks have marked them as targets by poachers.

 *Facts are staggering:
- The population of African elephants has dropped from 1.2 million in 1980 to 420,000 in 2012.
- Approximately one elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its tusks; at this rate, African elephants could  become extinct within the next decade.
- Savannah elephant tusks sell for up to $1000 per pound, with forest elephant ivory often fetching an even higher price.
- Within the last ten years, 1000 park rangers in 35 different countries have been killed in their efforts to stop poachers.
(*All facts reported and cited in Chelsea Clinton's blog, "How We Can End the Elephant Poaching Crisis.")

When I listen to such grand scale devastation, so far away and complex, I feel helpless -- as when I hear  of children killed in Syria, women raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,  rainforests destroyed in Africa, Asia, South America. . . and on  and on. I'm grateful that people with name recognition, power and resources heighten awareness and work toward change.

The African elephants' influential friends include the African Wildlife Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, International Fund for Animal Welfare, other NGOs, governments and concerned citizens.  All coordinated under the Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action.

Together they are dedicated to:
  • STOP the killing
  • STOP the trafficking
  • STOP the demand
To halt the decline of African elephants by the end of 2016.

Yet, the elephants need more friends, "everyday" friends.  As one of the people in the room that night, who is now aware of the situation, I have a choice. I can walk away, or commit to doing something, anything to help.

My feeling of  helplessness only becomes a reality if I choose to believe the whiny voice that says, "You can't do anything. You're just one person."

So I developed my own two-prong action plan --
- I will not purchase (or accept) any ivory products and will encourage others to do the same.
- I will write a blog posting (this one) to share what I have learned.

Now that you are aware, please consider passing on what you know to at least one other person. 
Share Chelsea's blog
Share this blog.
If you're in NYC, attend a function and learn more:

Through March 31 - The African Elephant - photography exhibit (free) by Beverly Joubert 
 Both events at ABC Home in Deepak HomeBase - 888 Broadway

Thank you!


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