ElephantVoices Blog

Wednesday, 31 December 2014 14:24

We pledge to continue to do our best for elephants in 2015 - and wish you a Happy New Year!

Warm greetings from Joyce & Petter

Happy New Year greeting 2015

Saturday, 22 November 2014 18:41

Did you know that elephants don't like wildebeests? Here you see both species, but when the wildebeest migration is in full session the Mara elephants disappear. The kerfuffle and commotion of so many ridiculous rutting mammals is more than dignified elephants can take, and they evacuate to the hills and bushlands beyond the protected National Reserve. This is but one of many reasons why conservationists and wildlife managers need to think big when considering the needs of elephants.

Dear Friend of ElephantVoices,

In November, our work took us to California where we spoke about wild elephants at the PAWS 2014 International Captive Wildlife Conference. We met our colleagues from ElephantVoices Brasil and Global Sanctuary for Elephants with whom we are working to establish an elephant sanctuary in Brazil. As Conservation Partners we visited Tembo Preserve in northern California with Ann and Roger McNamee and Colleen Kinzley who are starting on a long journey toward providing captive elephants with proper space and companions. We thank our many generous hosts in Los Angeles and San Francisco where we had opportunities to present our work.

To continue our elephant Conservation, Advocacy, Research and Education programs in 2015 we are seeking

Monday, 02 June 2014 08:57



Conservationists urge the EU - the biggest exporter of so-called “old” ivory – to ban all ivory trade

Brussels/2 June 2014. On the eve of inter-governmental meetings in Brussels and Geneva in June and July to debate the fate of elephants, a group of conservation organisations requests all EU governments to urgently halt all commerce in ivory and to destroy all remaining stockpiles. New data shows escalating exports of ivory from the European Union to China and worldwide. The organisations warn that any legal loophole in ivory trade creates the opportunity to launder poached ivory into “legal” trade and thus fuels the killing of elephants.

"Weak European laws on ivory trading are a clear and present danger to Africa’s elephants, and a gift to poachers and smugglers who feed almost limitless demand for ivory in East Asia", says Daniela Freyer of Pro Wildlife.

Mary Rice, of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), added: "We are calling on EU countries to halt all ivory trade within, to and from the EU and strengthen enforcement. This includes measures to destroy their stockpiled ivory – both carvings and raw tusks - irrespective of its source and alleged age. We will only be able to end the elephant poaching crisis when the trade fuelling it is banned and demand curbed.”

Increased Exports of Ivory from Europe

Although the EU prides itself on supporting elephant conservation, recent figures show that the ivory trade is alive - and expanding. In 2012, ivory was second among smuggled wildlife goods in the EU and accounted for 14 per cent of all wildlife seizures. But there is also a burgeoning export of allegedly legal ivory, supplied with EU documents certifying it as ivory acquired before trade rules of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) applied - so-called “pre-Convention ivory”.

New figures prepared by Pro Wildlife from CITES data reveal the EU as the biggest exporter of such ivory, which is feeding the escalating demand. More than 20,000 carvings and 564 tusks were exported with official EU documents during the period 2003 and 2012, with the UK being the major exporter of carvings and France the major exporter of tusks, followed by Italy, Austria and Germany; 56 per cent of the tusks and almost 25 per cent of the carvings were exported to China and Hong Kong, the main markets for legal as well as illegal ivory. A comparison of import and export figures found import figures from China are much lower and do not match the EU export figures, casting grave doubt on the country's controls over the ivory trade.

Why all ivory trade has to stop

Sally Case, of the UK-based David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, says "Clearly, the legal and illegal ivory trade go hand in hand. Fresh ivory carvings are virtually indistinguishable from “antique” ones, thus making it easy to launder poached ivory into the “legal” trade with the help of legal loopholes. We are shocked that the UK turns out to be the biggest exporter of ivory carvings from Europe. This trade has to stop".

It is unclear how EU authorities can ensure the veracity of the documents they issue for "old" ivory. Moreover, traders in importing countries could re-use such documents to launder freshly poached ivory into trade.

 "The US, as a major exporter and importer of ivory traded under the "pre-convention" loophole, has announced new rules to halt this trade and destroyed its seized ivory. It is high time for the EU to show similar leadership,” say DJ Schubert (Animal Welfare Institute)

All markets with high ivory flows need to be closed down to end the killing of tens of thousands of elephants each year - -and the EU should lead by example,” adds Andrea Crosta (Elephant Action League).

Ivory auctioned for record prices in France

"Despite being one of the three countries in Europe which have destroyed seized ivory stockpiles in recent months, France is a hub of trade in tusks", states Charlotte Nithart of Robin des Bois. The French CITES authorities have provided certificates for the sale of 1.4 tonnes of "pre-Convention" ivory at two large auctions in March and May 2014. The ivory achieved record prices of up to €1000 per kilo. Buyers included Chinese citizens, which directly conflicts with assurances given to the EU that China did not accept imports of raw pre-Convention ivory. At the same time, evidence accepted by the EU’s own regulatory wildlife trade committee shows that forgeries of French CITES certificates were confirmed to be in circulation. 

European Ivory Trade Companies

Other EU countries are also seeing a revival of the ivory trade. European companies based in Germany and The Netherlands openly advertise services to buy and sell so-called pre-Convention ivory “with legal permits”, with China a major importer. A Danish auctioning company was fined for having illegally put elephant tusks up for sale in January 2014. 

In addition, there is an extensive individual trade in ivory in the EU via the internet. During a survey period of two weeks in 2013, a joint INTERPOL/International Fund for Animal Welfare investigation found 660 advertisements for ivory on 61 auction sites, accounting for 4,500kg (4.5 tonnes) of ivory valued at about €1.45 million. Most of the ivory was destined for East Asia. The report noted that only one EU country - the Czech Republic - has implemented national legislation on e-commerce for CITES protected species. Conservationists are demanding that the other EU countries agree to take similar measures when their wildlife trade officials meet in Brussels on 11 June.

Upcoming EU and international Meetings

On June 3, the EU Commission has invited stakeholders from conservation and trade organisations to a meeting in Brussels in preparation of the EU position for the CITES Standing Committee meeting. On June 11, representatives from CITES authorities of EU Member States will meet to discuss “Intra-EU trade and re-exports of ivory” and the EU position on elephants at the annual meeting of the CITES Standing Committee, convened by the UN in Geneva from July 7-11.

Chad, an African elephant range state, has submitted proposals, supported by The Philippines, calling on CITES to address the conservation crisis for elephants by taking tough new measures to destroy all ivory stockpiles and close existing loopholes such as exemptions for trade in ivory traded as pre-Convention or "personal effects", which fuel trade and may allow poached ivory to be laundered with CITES certificates.



Paul Newman, Environmental Investigation Agency, 44 (0)20 7354 7960
Charlotte Nithart, Robin des Bois, 33 1 48 04 09 36


Issued by: Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Ateneo de Manila University School of Government, Conservation Justice, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF), EAGLE (Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement), Elephant Action League, ElephantVoices, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Franz Weber Foundation, Hong Kong for Elephants, Pro Wildlife, Rettet die Elefanten Afrikas, Robin des Bois, Wild Africa



Background information:

The international trade in ivory was banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1989. However, since then CITES has permitted two "one-off" sales from legal government stockpiles in Southern Africa in 1999 and 2008. While the first sale went to Japan only, in 2008 China was for the first time permitted by CITES to import 68 tonnes of ivory, arguing that this would actually deter illegal trade and protect elephants in the wild.

However, recent data on ivory trade and elephant poaching show that the opposite has happened: African elephants are now being slaughtered for ivory on a scale that hasn’t been seen since the 1980s. More than 44 tonnes of ivory was seized by enforcement authorities worldwide in 2013 - the highest figure for 25 years. Up to 50,000 elephants are killed by poachers each year and populations in several regions are collapsing. Local and even global extinction of African elephants is facing us now, as a consequence of human demand for ivory. China is today the world’s biggest consumer of legal as well as illegal ivory.

Thursday, 03 April 2014 04:41

We are posting the speech by Professor Edward O. Wilson at the Opening of Laboratory of Biodiversity of Gorongosa in deep respect for Greg Carr, the Mozambiquen Government and the whole team of people working to protect Gorongosa National Park. The long-term, holistic approach taken by the Gorongosa Team working to restore an amazingly biodiverse ecosystem is admireable from many perspectives - and provides a model for other priceless habitats and species. What we will learn from Gorongosa may have an impact far and beyond, well symbolised through the Laboratory of Biodiversity just opened. 

We, admittedly, wish we were in Gorongosa for this milestone - and we really look forward to continue our elephant work there later in the year. We are proud to be part of the Gorongosa Team.

Joyce and Petter


Edward O. Wilson

The development of these wonderful facilities, along with the earlier inclusion of Gorongosa Mountain into the park and the rebuilding of the megafauna back to its pre-war strength, has been made a reality by Greg Carr and the government of Mozambique. It represents an advance not only in this country and Africa but the entire global environmental movement.

Edward O. Wilson examines an orb weaver spider web while collecting insects in Gorongosa National Park. (©Bob Poole)In essence, what it has achieved is to give a broader role in the global movement to the world’s nature parks and other natural history reserves. This development will help bring life back to humanity’s environmental conscience. Why do I put it this way? The world is becoming green. Environmental awareness has grown dramatically during the past several decades. However, the focus has fallen increasingly on the non-living part of the world, in other words on climate change, pollution, and the exhaustion of irreplaceable resources. At the same time attention has slipped away from the living part of Earth, called the biosphere, a layer of living organisms so thin it cannot be seen from the side by an orbiting space vehicle in orbit. The biosphere still has plenty of biomass, in other words the sheer weight of living tissue. Most of it is in the farms and timberlands that sustain the human species. What is declining is biodiversity, the variation of living organisms. Biodiversity exists at three levels: first, the ecosystems such as the lakes, streams, savanna, and dry forests of the Rift Valley and Cheringoma Plateau; then the species of plants, animals, and microorganisms that make up the ecosystems; and finally the genes that prescribe the traits that distinguish the species that make up the ecosystems. National Parks like Gorongosa play a major role in preserving the world’s biodiversity, and now, increasingly, by learning how to save it everywhere around the world.

How much biodiversity exists? To date two million species of plants, animals, and microorganisms have been discovered and given descriptions and formal names by biologists. Estimates, however, place the actual number at closer to ten million. When bacteria and other microbes are added, the number will soar much higher. Humanity, to put the matter as simply as possible, lives on a little known planet. We lack a sound idea of what our activities are doing to it.

This brings me to another important point relevant to this park. Gorongosa is so far, I believe, the only park in Africa, and one of only several in the entire world, to undertake a complete study to discover and identify all of the species of plants, animals, and microbes that make up its biodiversity—not just the mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes, and vegetation, but all of the insects, spiders, and other invertebrates as well. This project, led by Piotr Naskrecki, and utilizing the expertise of Marc Stalmans, has already turned up many new species, especially of insects. As it expands, the number of animal and plant species is bound to increase dramatically. As a comparison, consider the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the United States, where a similar effort has brought to light approximately 18,000 species.

We should learn as much as we can about these smaller creatures that I like to call “the little things that run the world.” Elephants, lions, and other mammals of course play vital roles in the ecology of Gorongosa, but they live upon a living platform of other, usually neglected plants and animals. I strongly believe that we should extend the term “wildlife” to cover all of the animals, large and small, that make up the ecosystems.

There is so much to learn for scientists and amateur naturalists at Gorongosa National Park of ecology, physiology, and other aspects of biology, and the physical environment of the park as well. This is an ideal place to pioneer the concept of nature parks throughout the world as centers for research and education. The center will be an asset not just for visitors but increasingly in time, of great value to the people of Mozambique. I’m proud to be a part of it, and I congratulate those who have created the center and now are set to make it an example for the rest of the world to follow.

Read more on Blog da Gorongosa - Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Lab Opens.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014 19:37


For Immediate Release February 11, 2014

Ivory Trade Ban Essential to Save Elephants

As world leaders gather in London on 13 February to attend a summit – hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and attended by Prince Charles and Prince William – to confront the escalating poaching crisis decimating the world’s iconic wildlife, 23 environmental, conservation, and animal welfare groups from 14 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America demand a permanent ban on both domestic and international trade in ivory and the destruction of all government-held stocks.

Experts estimate approximately 50,000 elephants were killed in 2013 to satisfy the demand for ivory – largely from China. This level of poaching has not been seen since the 1980s. Without urgent action to end the ivory trade now, elephants may soon become extinct in parts of their range in Africa and Asia. The poaching is also devastating rural communities, sustaining terrorist groups and armed militias, and driving domestic conflict. Tragically, more than 1,000 rangers have lost their lives worldwide in the fight against poaching over the last decade, with untold impacts on their families. The human toll does not stop there. Vulnerable communities are being exploited by traffickers and drawn into criminal activities, while tourism is being compromised amid the decline in security.

Over the past six years, enforcement authorities in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere have intercepted massive amounts of illegal ivory. In 2013 alone, at least 45 tonnes were seized. But considering that law enforcement experts estimate that 10 percent of illegally traded ivory is seized, far more has slipped through the net. Most of the illegal ivory is ending up in China to be sold as chopsticks, jewelry, and carvings. Japan also remains an important consumer of illegal ivory tusks through a government “registration” process, which every year legalizes tonnes of ivory of unknown origin.

Demand for ivory has been stimulated by two “experimental, one-off” sales approved by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) – of 49 tonnes in 1999 and 108 tonnes in 2008, all from government stocks in southern Africa. Despite strong opposition by many non-governmental organizations, the 2008 sale allowed China to purchase 62 tonnes, fueling demand for ivory among increasingly affluent Chinese citizens, driving prices up, and facilitating the laundering of massive quantities of illegal ivory as “legal”.

“There is broad agreement that legalizing ivory trade to China and Japan has been a huge mistake. We need to learn from history and permanently shut down all ivory trade – international and domestic”, says Mary Rice, Executive Director, Environmental Investigation Agency.

A 1989 ban on ivory trade largely halted the slaughter of elephants by slashing the price of ivory and substantially reducing poaching – allowing elephant populations to recover. However, this successful policy has been undermined not only by the two stockpile sales, but also by persistent discussions in CITES aimed at legalising trade over the long-term.

Reducing demand for wildlife products is one of the stated goals of the London summit on illegal wildlife trade. A parallel legal trade in ivory, however, will negate demand-reduction efforts.

“If world leaders are serious about ending the illegal ivory trade, they need to urgently implement an ivory trade ban. This includes closing down domestic ivory markets around the world, especially in China and Japan, and stopping the ongoing debate about legalizing ivory trade”, states Sally Case, Chief Executive Officer, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. “Anything else will only add to the elephant body count, and drive the African and Asian elephants closer to extinction, fuel more conflict, and sacrifice the lives of more rangers”. The legal domestic ivory market in China is considered to be the greatest threat to elephants.

The elephant poaching crisis has not gone unnoticed by governments. In the last three years Gabon, the Philippines, and the United States have destroyed confiscated ivory stockpiles. In January 2014, China destroyed a portion of its stockpile. France crushed 3.4 tonnes in February 2014. And Hong Kong, a key destination and transit country for illegal ivory, is set to follow suit, with plans to crush more than 28 tonnes of ivory. Moreover, in an attempt to address the crisis, there have been numerous discussions and high level meetings held, new initiatives announced, and commitments and declarations issued.

Yet, the poaching of elephants will continue as long as ivory is a legal commodity, driving demand. “No amount of rhetoric, money, or enforcement actions will save elephants unless there is an immediate, permanent, and comprehensive ban on the trade in ivory”, declares Charlotte Nithart, Director of Robin des Bois.


Mary Rice, Environmental Investigation Agency, +44 7810 640 532

Vicky Flynn, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, +44 (0) 1483 272323

Alex Kennaugh, Natural Resources Defense Council, +44 795 041 6353

Charlotte Nithart, Robin des Bois, +33 1 48 04 09 36

Supporting organizations:

Amboseli Trust for Elephants

Animal Welfare Institute

Ateneo School of Government

Conservation Justice

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Eco Activists for Governance & Law Enforcement

Elephant Action League

Elephant Family


Environmental Investigation Agency

Foundation Franz Weber

Hong Kong for Elephants

International Ranger Federation

Last Great Ape Organization

Natural Resources Defense Council

Projet d’Appui a l’Application de la Loi sur la Faune Sauvage

Pro Wildlife

Robin des Bois

The Thin Green Line Foundation

The Tsavo Trust


Youth for Conservation