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
A WINDOW ON ETERNITY
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.
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.
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
Amboseli Trust for Elephants
Animal Welfare Institute
Ateneo School of Government
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Eco Activists for Governance & Law Enforcement
Elephant Action League
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
Robin des Bois
The Thin Green Line Foundation
The Tsavo Trust
Youth for Conservation
As many of our supporters know, for the last couple of years ElephantVoices has been working with team members in Brazil to promote and support progressive legislation to end the antiquated practice of performing elephants. A connected strategy has been to explore the development of an elephant sanctuary in Brazil. Many captive elephants in Brazil and other South American countries are in dire need of better welfare and living conditions. To help put an end to their suffering, a sanctuary in Brazil is urgently needed.
Recently, Scott Blais, co-founder of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, and his partner, Katherine Blais, have established a new non-profit entity, Global Sanctuary for Elephants (GSfE), with financial and other support from ElephantVoices.
Dedicated to the development and support of progressive, holistic, natural habitat elephant sanctuaries internationally, GSfE will spearhead the exciting and, for elephants, important effort in Brazil. Brazil is for many reasons a well suited location for a sanctuary - with the climate, available habitats permitting natural foraging and social behavior, the potential of progressive policies and a our established team of enthusiastic volunteers being just a few.
A collaborative initiative with ambitious goals
With their vast experience with captive elephants, Scott and Katherine will take the lead on this initiative working closely with ElephantVoices Brazil, while ElephantVoices Directors, Petter Granli and Dr. Joyce Poole, will continue to provide advice and consult on all major developments. ElephantVoices Brazil, the team of volunteers led by Junia Machado, will coordinate all on-the-ground activities, working with Brazilian officials, investigating new opportunities including exploration of possible properties to develop, and they will continue to build the fundamental, professional relationships so essential to moving this project forward. Together we have agreed that Elephant Sanctuary Brazil (ESB) will be fostered under the guiding principles previously established by ElephantVoices and available on Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles.
ElephantVoices cares deeply about the long-term health and welfare of captive elephants. We feel confident that under the direction of Scott and Katherine, Elephant Sanctuary Brazil will transform the future for elephants in South America while also serving as an international benchmark for other sanctuary-initiatives to emulate. To see ESB up and running will be like a dream coming true.
Lots of hard work ahead - Brazil has highest priority
As we now set out on the long road forward, several phases need to be developed and substantial funds need to be raised to bring Elephant Sanctuary Brazil to fruition. The first phase of development is for Scott and Kat to join ElephantVoices team members on the ground in Brazil to finalize plans moving forward, and to gather the basis for a sanctuary prospectus. While in Brazil, they will assess identified properties for potential development, meet with key government officials and Brazilian stakeholders and investigate construction options that will allow us to formalize the long-term financial needs and to formulate land acquisition and construction budgets.
In addition to human resources, ElephantVoices has committed $10,000 toward the $30,000 budget needed to fund this first phase and we have already received another $3,500 from supporting animal welfare groups. Now the project team will be working to secure the remaining $16,500 to expedite the first phase toward helping elephants in South America walk and live in sanctuary.
We urge you to consider supporting ESB and/or GSfE
For the past 20 years we have witnessed the tremendous impact of two iconic elephant sanctuaries in North America, The Elephant Sanctuary (TES) and Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), as they have transformed the lives of those lucky enough to find sanctuary. You can be a part of making that dream a reality for elephants throughout South America. With your support of Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, together we can ensure that those elephants who have already served a life sentence performing, can soon find the peace, space and autonomy they need and deserve. We request the help of everyone (individuals, companies and animal welfare agencies alike) committed to working for a better quality of life for elephants to help raise the funds needed to move this pivotal first phase forward.
Please donate online through one of the links below:
Global Sanctuary for Elephants
Crowdfunding campaign for Elephant Sanctuary Brasil
ElephantVoices. If you donate through ElephantVoices, be certain to designate your funds for the Elephant Sanctuary Brazil Project on the dropdown menu.
Poor Semba passed away - we need to move forward NOW
Over the past few weeks we’ve learned that Semba, a circus elephant who spent her life on the road across South America, and who we hoped would one day find freedom at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, passed away without warning. We don’t know any details about her cause of death, but we do know that her life will not be forgotten as we push forward with greater urgency to ensure that other captive elephants are offered a freedom Semba was denied.
Follow us on Facebook to hear more about the latest developments toward a compassionate future for elephants in Brazil and throughout South America. You'll find more information on:
In June, faciliated by the Humane Society International, I was invited by the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) to attend a two day meeting of 47 Chinese Zoo Directors in Shenzhen, China. My invitation followed the bad press that China received in relation to the importation of baby elephants from Zimbabwe late last year. At least one of these babies died and another became seriously ill. Zimbabwe had earlier given assurances that it would stop the capture of baby elephants for captivity and the news of the shipment and deaths and rumour that more babies were awaiting capture and export, prompted an international outcry.
The CAGZ was eager not to be caught up in such exposure again and I was asked to give a 90 minute presentation on the topic of "The Importance of Animal Behavior in Import Decisions". The trip to China offered an excellent opportunity to also speak about another topic involving elephants and China and Petter and I decided that I should extend my stay to include Hong Kong and Beijing to talk about elephants, poaching and the ivory trade.
I arrived in Hong Kong on the afternoon 14 June and that evening gave a lecture on elephants and the ivory trade at the Royal Geographical Society and an interview with Jennifer Ngo of the South China Morning Post (click for headline). Jennifer’s article was picked up by The Daily Mail and also the New York Times and Asia News.
The following morning, 15 June, I was interviewed by freelance journalist, Kate Whitehead, and by Joyee Chan, who wrote an article for the Young Readers edition of the South China Morning Post published on 2 July.
That afternoon in a Starbucks in Kowloon was the first meeting of a loose group of people who are keen to do something to stop the trafficking of ivory through Hong Kong and into China. In the photographs below from left to right Christian Pilard (Eco-Sys Action Foundation), Joyce Lau and Victoria Chin (both Jane Goodall Institute), Alex Hofford (Conservation Photo journalist), Joyce Poole (ElephantVoices) and Iris Ho (Humane Society International). Alex took some photos while showing me a couple of ivory outlets in Hong Kong - I wasn't amused.
Celia Ho, the "Elephant Girl" arrived soon afterwards and we had a really nice meeting just the two of us, in which she presented me with an origami elephants with the words “Every Tusk Costs a Life, Don’t Buy Ivory
Two days after an upsetting e-mail about the slaughter of a pregnant female elephant from our long-time friend and Kenya Elephant Forum collegaue, Kuki Gallmann, we received another. A second pregnant female elephant has been killed for her ivory. She was shot on 22nd, but survived another two days. We are talking about tiny tusks. Males with big tusks are rare to see in Laikipia these days. We are talking about a wonderful, intelligent creature and her unborn baby, killed because of greed; supplying what the market is willing to pay for. A long chain from the killer, to the unscrupulous local middleman, through the big-wigs greasing the wheels of corruption (likely public servants on both side of the ocean) to the dealer and into the hands of the uncaring or ignorant buyer, most likely in Asia. Kenya's heritage, tourism and work places are not factors. Nor is the suffering of the young female and her unborn child.
Joyce is just back from China, a growing super-power which, based on reliable facts and figures from CITES, accounts for 40% of the illegal ivory trade. China should be embarrassed by these photographs which represent the reality of the demand for ivory as a status symbol among the country's growing middle class. Meanwhile, those of us in Africa continue to be confronted with the daily brutality, trauma and death among the declining elephant populations in many elephant range states. Official mortality figures don't include the deaths of the orphaned babies who cannot cope without their mothers. In the case of a pregnant elephant the result is obvious and heart-wrenchingly sickening. Read Kuki Gallmann's words to us as part of the Kenya Elephant Forum. The world must wake up - NOW!
With a sinking heart I report from the field:
Birds waking up in the garden, festive dogs, promise of sunshine, work to do. One early morning like many others. Then... Radio call, phone calls, phone messages, all at once. Another elephant found. Dam Kiboko. Dead in the water. Tusks intact. Pitiful tusks. Rangers deployed, KWS deployed and I drive there, with Sveva.
Official facts and figures:
This is the second elephant female we find in two days; the second casualty overall in 2013. Shot in same incident, at dusk. Wounded, she survived two days. Very pregnant. Very young: first calf. Conceived here, she was born here, grown here to follow her mother and family, migrating periodically to the Aberdares through increasingly fragmented dangerous land, back here every June in the migratory season along their now interrupted migratory routes. Back here again to be bred in the mating season: and now back to give birth, in what used to be their safe heaven. She died in the water. She died in a dam with pelicans, where elephant play; in a forested area they love, where they used to be secure.
What did she die for? Three dead elephants in two days. Two here one at Mugie, next door. But all pregnant females, dead are the calves. Six dead. What has changed after a peaceful year? Why now? The Rift Valley dealers are back.
Young pregnant females are giving birth, now, here. THEY ARE COMNG BACK FROM FAR. WE SEE NO MALES. THOSE HAVE BEEN KILLED LONG AGO, IT IS THEIR CALVES THAT ARE BORN TWENTY-TWO MONTHS LATER. We need more rangers to look after them, and we need help.
After a tractor pulled the dead elephant out of the water, the rangers removed the tusks and slit the stomach for the predators to speed up the recycling process. Photo: Sveva Gallmann.