Ivory, terrorism and extinction

Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa. Photo credit: Brian Snelson (CC-BY 2.0)

Terrorism that we can do something about

One elephant is murdered every 15 minutes for their tusks. More and more conservationists and NGOs have become aware of the connection between elephant poaching and terrorism. Both species extinction and global terrorism are two major issues to the international community. Both involve the loss of innocent life and require urgent action.

Now the director of Hurtlocker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow, and the writer of Contagion and An inconvenient truth, Scott Z. Burns, have made a 3 minute animated short movie called Last Days that depict this connection and why it matters. Because many experts believe that elephants in the wild could go extinct within a decade the moviemakers chose to make an animated piece for a broader audience that could be released quickly. Despite there being plenty of graphic images on the internet of elephants being slaughtered, the killing continues. The short movie is an attempt to focus the viewer on the trail of money as well as the trail of blood. 

African terrorist organisations like Al Shabaab and Boko Haram use money from poaching to fund their activities. This is one of the reasons why elephant poaching has increased dramatically over the last years and become “industrialized”. Buying trinkets made out of ivory thus contributes both to species extinction and funding of terrorism. Illegal wildlife trade is the fourth biggest black market in the world, only surpassed by narcotics, arms trade and human trafficking. 

As a result of this movie a new foundation called www.lastdaysofivory.com promotes awarness and cultural change towards ending illegal ivory trade though encuraging people not to buy any ivory (see icon on the right). Other organisations have similar campaigns but that often does not include the terrorism connection. For example, the Chinese retired NBA basketball player Yao Ming has contributed to the cause of trying to get the Chinese to stop buying ivory by figuring in short information videos with elephants. By focusing on the terrorism connection, however, conservation organisations can gain more traction from the government to implement regulations since national security is of higher priority than environmental protection.  


Out of the ashes into the fire

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