A Valentine’s Victory for the Pachyderm

President Obama gave beleaguered elephants an early Valentine’s Day gift earlier this week when the White House effectively banned all imports, exports, and resale of ivory in the United States. These efforts are part of a greater plan to reduce the poaching that is both devastating elephant populations abroad and funding global terrorist networks. Wildlife trafficking is one of the top four largest criminal activities along with narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking. By reducing demand for ivory, we can shut down these criminal groups and also keep Africa’s wildlife healthy and thriving for future generations to come.

The White House has outlined the following key steps to be taken immediately by all federal departments and agencies:

  • Prohibit the commercial import and export of elephant ivory
  • Significantly restrict the domestic resale of elephant ivory
  • Restore Endangered Species Act protection to cover African elephants

Elephant poaching has increased dramatically in the past few years, with nearly 100 shot dead every day as demand for their tusks has skyrocketed. If the pace of this slaughter continues unabated, the African elephant, one of the most iconic and majestic animals on the planet, will go extinct within a decade.

It isn’t only the elephant facing such dire straits. From the equally iconic rhinoceros to the relatively unknown yet remarkable pangolin (aka “scaly anteater), poaching is wreaking havoc on the natural beauty of the few wild places we have left. Wildlife biologists warn we may be entering a sixth “mass extinction event,” with thousands of species of plants and animals disappearing every day, often without our ever having discovered them.

The United States, along with governments around the world, can help stem this blood-soaked tide by restricting trade, promoting sustainable eco-tourism, and engaging with local populations to foster peaceful co-existence with native wildlife.

From our past work with EDF and their promotion of sustainable corporate supply chains to our current work to promote divestment from fossil fuels, I am proud to work at Fenton, where the protection of our environment and natural beauty has been one of our core issues from our very beginning 32 years ago.

I applaud President Obama for his leadership on this front as we fight the good fight to learn from and advocate for all of the earth’s inhabitants.