Step up to save the ele­phants

It beg­gars be­lief. Per capita, New Zealan­ders are among the world’s worst of­fend­ers for ivory im­ports. Jane Goodall is ask­ing us to stop. Jamie Joseph met her in Auck­land.

Element - - Planet - By Jamie Joseph / sav­ingth­ Jamie Joseph, pic­tured be­low with Jane Goodall, is a writer and an en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist. She grew up in South Africa and em­i­grated to New Zealand in 2009. In Oc­to­ber she will be re­turn­ing to her home­land to join the w

Jane Goodall vis­ited New Zealand this month as part of her 80th birth­day world tour, a cel­e­bra­tion of sell out shows and stand­ing ova­tions. Ar­guably the most recog­nised liv­ing sci­en­tist and con­ser­va­tion­ist; she is sup­ported by mil­lions of people around the globe who see her as an or­a­cle for the fu­ture and an in­spi­ra­tion for all.

In 1986, at a con­fer­ence that brought into view the mass de­struc­tion of nat­u­ral habi­tats by hu­mans, and the dec­i­ma­tion of an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions, the dreamer who had be­come a sci­en­tist came to the re­al­i­sa­tion that she could no longer go back to her quiet life with the chim­panzees in Tan­za­nia’s Gombe For­est. She de­cided to con­front the world face to face, and so she be­came an ac­tivist and be­gan trav­el­ling through­out the world, chal­leng­ing ev­ery­one she meets to be care­tak­ers of the planet.

And now, with the African poach­ing cri­sis at its worst ever, with an ele­phant killed ev­ery 15 min­utes, Jane Goodall is call­ing on New Zealan­ders to play their role in sav­ing the ele­phants from loom­ing extinction.

Her visit this month is timely be­cause a pe­ti­tion has just been lodged with the New Zealand Govern­ment re­quest­ing a ban on all ivory trade. Spear­headed by Auck­land teacher Vir­ginia Woolf, and sup­ported by en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy an­a­lyst Fiona Gor­don, the re­port states that on a per capita ba­sis for ivory carv­ing im­ports from 2009 to 2012, New Zealand eas­ily tops the United States, the world’s sec­ond largest con­sumer of ivory af­ter China.

New Jersey and New York were neck and neck this month in the race to be the first U.S. states to ban ivory, and last month in Hong Kong of­fi­cials be­gan de­stroy­ing a stock­pile of nearly 30 tonnes of ivory seized from smug­glers.

“Ele­phants suf­fer and they feel pain, and they have long term sup­port­ive bonds be­tween fam­ily mem­bers,” says Goodall. “So it’s not just a species fac­ing extinction, its mas­sive in­di­vid­ual suf­fer­ing.”

New Zealand’s role in the trade of ivory makes the coun­try com­plicit in this cri­sis, and the pe­ti­tion is call­ing on the govern­ment to strengthen laws and fix loop­holes that are en­cour­ag­ing il­licit trade. Ele­phants are con­tin­u­ally put at risk by the prospect of a sanc­tioned sale of ivory whether in con­ven­tional auc­tion houses such as Webbs Auc­tion House in Auck­land, or via in­ter­net trad­ing sites such as Trademe.

“Ev­ery ivory bracelet, pen­dant or trin­ket rep­re­sents a dead ele­phant,” says Goodall. “The prob­lem is that as long as there are loop­holes for sell­ing ivory legally, the il­le­gal trade will con­tinue. A to­tal ban on the sale of ivory is the only way for­ward. So­cial me­dia can am­plify the mes­sage and put pres­sure on your govern­ment, and ul­ti­mately it is up to us to give a voice to the voice­less.”

Ev­ery day is a bad day for ele­phants, but this month es­pe­cially people around the world are mourn­ing the death of Satao, Kenya’s leg­endary tusker, and one of the few re­main­ing ele­phants whose tusks were so big they al­most touched the ground. With so much death around him the mighty Satao knew the poach­ers were af­ter his tusks, and he had taken to awk­wardly zig zag­ging be­tween bushes, bury­ing his tusks into each bush, sniff­ing the air for poach­ers be­fore mov­ing on.

For the past 18 months Kenya Wildlife Ser­vices and Tsavo Trust jointly mon­i­tored Satao’s move­ments us­ing aerial re­con­nais­sance and de­ploy­ing ground per­son­nel in his home range. But with re­sources stretched to the limit, by the time they got to Satao his face had al­ready been hacked off.

“There is that say­ing: ‘we haven’t in­her­ited the planet from our par­ents, we bor­rowed it from our chil­dren’,” says Goodall. “But bor­row means you plan to pay back, and we’ve been steal­ing. And that is why I am work­ing so hard with youth to cre­ate a crit­i­cal mass of young people em­pow­ered to be guardians of our nat­u­ral world. They are my hope for the fu­ture.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.