Do you love elephants? Well August 12th is World Elephant Day, a day not solely for celebrating these beautiful creatures, but also to raise awareness about elephant conservation. Elephants are known for forming strong family bonds and researchers have found that “elephants are capable of complex thought and deep feeling” including grief; they are known to mourn for many years after a death. Unfortunately, African elephants have had to mourn on too many occasions over the last several decades as the most recent data suggests that 27,000 African elephants are slaughtered every year, mostly by ivory poachers.
Even as tragic stories such as the poaching murder of tusker Satao II earlier this year in Kenya continue to pour in, there is still much hope for elephant populations. Demand for ivory has dropped, in great part due to the efforts made by elephant conservationists. Notably, over the last three years, the price of ivory has fallen by two-thirds with states such as New York and several countries around the world agreeing to ban the sale of ivory altogether. Ideally, if selling ivory becomes a less lucrative trade, poachers may be less willing to take the risk. A number of high-profile awareness campaigns have also helped. Earlier this year, the Bronx Zoo joined hands with origami enthusiasts from around the world to demolish the world record for largest display of origami elephants. The goal was set for 35,000 origami elephants, reflecting a recent estimate for the number of elephants killed each year, but they received over 78,000 origami elephants.
On August 3, the Wildlife Conservation Society held a live-streamed ivory crush in New York’s Central Park. Since 2014 when New York banned the sale of ivory, they have collected around two tons of ivory worth around $8 million. By crushing it, they are hoping to send a strong message of protest about the slaughter of African elephants. Basil Steggs, New York’s Environmental Conservation Commissioner, said of the event: “This so-called artwork that to me is a repugnant representation of a sick trade will be pulverized into nothing as a powerful symbol of the state’s commitment to enforcing this ban.” This isn’t the first time ivory has been destroyed in a public display. Paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey burned twelve tons of confiscated ivory in Kenya in 1989. Kenya has burned ivory on a number of occasions since then, as have other African nations.
To celebrate World Elephant Day, you can donate or participate in a number of events being held around the world, like the Fifth Annual International March for Elephants in Washington DC.