More than $20,000 raised in Washington DC in support of elephants, worldwide ivory sales ban
Friends of elephants united on October 4 – World Animal Day – across the globe.
In the U.S. capital Elephants DC, a fledgling nonprofit dedicated to ending the ivory trade and advancing elephant well-being, held its first ever fundraiser, WILD for Elephants, at Studio Gallery DC following the second annual International March for Elephants to the White House.
The evening reception raised more than $20,000. Approximately $16,000 has been donated directly to field organizations in Africa dedicated to saving orphaned elephants from extinction and protecting majestic wildlife from poachers. 40 percent of the proceeds were donated to Big Life Foundation and 40 percent to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
After expenses and artist commissions, including $5,000 to Big Life Foundation for the work of world renowned photographer Nick Brandt, the event raised: $5,460 for the elephant orphans of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust; $5,460 to the Ranger Fund of Big Life Foundation; and $2,733, or 20 percent, for Elephants DC.
“We are thrilled to receive the outpouring of support for elephants on World Animal Day. Elephants DC will continue our mission to end ivory sales worldwide and advance elephant well-being,” said Jen Samuel, eDC president.
“We are concurrently supporting field organizations, such as The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Big Life Foundation, who are on the ground in Africa saving keystone species from extinction while building up and empowering local communities,” Ms. Samuel said. “The ivory crisis is composed of poaching, smuggling, and buying – and it is up to us as Americans to end the ivory here at home in order to – one day very soon – move China, the No. 1 consumer of ivory in the world, to follow our lead. We must ban ivory sales to save elephants from extinction, it is that simple.”
Hundreds of Concerned Citizens Marched in the Nation’s Capital to Speak Out for Elephants
The DC march was one of more than 130 events held on Oct. 4 to take a stand against extinction as part of the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos movement. Lawmakers and advocates pledged to continue to their work to end ivory and rhino horn sales at home and around the world.
Environmental Action reported that an estimated 800 people participated in the march that began at the Lincoln Memorial and ended with a peaceful rally at Lafayette Square before the White House. Keynote speakers included New Jersey lawmakers Senator Raymond Lesniak and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, who championed the first complete ivory and rhino horn sales ban this past spring. Governor Chris Christie signed the ban into law on August 5.
Additional speakers at the march included Wayne Pacelle, president of The Humane Society of the United States-Humane Society International; Andrew Dobson, professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University; renowned artist Asher Jay who is a 2014 National Geographic Emerging Explorer; and Alan Thornton, co-founder and president of Environmental Investigation Agency. Hargrove Inc. donated the stage.
John Beacher, a songwriter and singer from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, performed an original song he composed specifically for the march titled “Elephant Call.”
Elephant Supporters Show They’re Wild for Elephants
Following the march, WILD for Elephants was an intimate gathering of 100 attendees at Gallery Studio DC, a hip spot located on R Street in the bustling neighborhood of Dupont Circle. The event featured raffle prizes and a silent auction featuring the work of photographers Nick Brandt, Billy Dodson, Michael North, Elephants DC vice president Mike Paredes, Jill Snyder, and Neil Dampier.
Senator Lesniak and Assemblyman Mukherji delivered remarks at WILD for Elephants and both lawmakers were presented with letters from Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick for their work to successfully ban ivory and rhino horn sales in the State of New Jersey.
“I wish to express to you our sincere gratitude for your steadfast support in helping pass the recent bill to ban the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn within New Jersey,” Dame Sheldrick wrote. “We hope this bold step, which was followed by similar legislation in New York, will lead other US States to acknowledge their responsibility in protecting elephants and rhinos, and tackling the illicit wildlife trade, by implementing their own legislation. From there, may it also act to inspire other Nations to adopt a zero tolerance stance on ivory and horn sales, across Europe and ultimately in China.”
WILD for Elephants featured a brief presentation by Elephants DC officers, including president Jen Samuel and vice president Mike Paredes. The event was organized by Elephants DC officer Ann Lewis and her husband, John Lewis, mc’d the night. eDC secretary Stacy Davis, a military wife and mother of six daughters, ensured guests received gourmet cookies at the end of the event donated by Marine Momma Confections.
“I am so proud of Elephant DC’s hard work and determination to make our first ever fundraiser such a successful event,” Ms. Lewis said. “We surpassed our expectations and I would like to thank all of the passionate volunteers and advocates who spend their own time and money for this important cause.”
Additional remarks at WILD for Elephants were made by Kathleen Schatzmann, New Jersey state director of The Humane Society of the United States; Iris Ho of Humane Society International; Kate Dylewsky of Born Free USA; artist Asher Jay; Professor Dobson of Princeton; and Katarzyna Nowak, a junior research fellow at Durham University, who wrote a piece on the DC march for National Geographic.
“We are facing the genocide of Africa’s elephants,” Professor Dobson said. “Anybody who buys any sort of ivory is enhancing the risk that future generations will live in a world without elephants. Trade in any form of elephant products increases the demand for more elephants to be killed.”
About Elephants DC and the Poaching Crisis
Elephants DC was incepted January 2014 and led the grassroots movement to successfully ban all domestic ivory and rhino horn sales in the State of New Jersey. This work was achieved in direct partnership with advocates around the world and The Humane Society of the United States-Humane Society International. The New Jersey ivory and rhino horn sales ban was also directly supported by Born Free USA; Animal Welfare Institute; iWorry; Wildlife Conservation Society; and many more organizations as well as antique businesses throughout the Garden State.
The wild elephant population is being decimated for ivory trinkets. 100,000 wild elephants were slaughtered between 2010 and 2012. Actress Meryl Streep – a New Jersey native – called the elephant ivory trade one of “horrific cruelty.”
Extremist groups in Africa, such as Janjaweed, Lord’s Resistance Army, and the Al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab threaten American security and are funded by the ivory trade. Ivory has become a conflict resource.
Ms. Samuel said, “Children learn ‘E’ is for ‘Elephant.’ We cannot allow this keystone species, the elephant, to be unnecessary and brutally stolen from the earth to fund the nefarious activities of transnational criminals and terrorists. Belief in the validity of legal ivory trade stems from greed rooted in idolatry.”
The legal ivory market fuels the illegal ivory market. New ivory is tampered with to look old. Thus, illegal ivory hides behind the guise of “antique,” “mammoth,” “bone,” “art,” “trophy,” and even “jewelry” on the marketplace.
“Elephant slaughter directly funds terrorists and transnational criminal syndicates,” Ms. Samuel stated. “Ending commercial ivory trade is a bipartisan choice to save an ancient, beloved, and ecologically essential species from extinction. Ending the ivory trade at home will help shut down the legal and illegal ivory trades in Africa and Asia. Ending the ivory trade will benefit future generations.”
On Feb. 11 President Obama introduced a National Strategy on Combating Wildlife Trafficking. However, Elephants DC contends that this strategy, which calls for a partial sales ban, does not go far enough.
“It is the position of Elephants DC, New Jersey lawmakers, and friends around the world that a full commercial ivory sales ban is absolutely necessary to save elephants from extinction,” Ms. Samuel said. “With as few as 300,000 elephants remaining in the wild, we must act now.”
In 2008 the international community temporarily lifted the global ivory ban allowing China to legally trade in stockpile ivory from a handful of African nations, including South Africa. Since then the illegal ivory trade has skyrocketed from San Francisco to Beijing under the guise of legality. It is estimated more than 35,000 wild elephants were poached for their tusks in 2013 including adolescent elephants.
In the United States the call to ban ivory used in musical instruments has been a point of contention, but one of the most famous pianists in the world has expressed his support for elephants.
“There are other materials which can be substituted for piano keys. But magnificent creatures like these can never be replaced. Music must never be used as an excuse to destroy an endangered species,” Billy Joel said. “Music should be a celebration of life – not an instrument of death.”