Happy New Year! It’s 2015 — a brand new year with nothing but potential ahead of us for making a difference for elephants.
But as excited as we are to hit the 2015 ground running, we want to take a moment to look back, too. This post is dedicated to all our officers, volunteers, donors, supporters, family and friends who helped us make a difference for elephants this past year. You helped us create so many unforgettable memories in 2014.
As many of you know, Elephants DC is a brand-new wildlife conservation nonprofit fighting to end the global ivory trade and promote elephant welfare worldwide. Founded in January 2014, we’ve just officially made it through our first year. And it was an incredible year. We learned a lot, and we achieved more than we ever thought possible. (Check out our recent post about our 2014 work and impact.)
Unfortunately, we also had our hearts broken too many times in 2014, as more devastating news rolled in about the plight that elephants face. (We continue to mourn Satao, and all the other elephants who were murdered last year in the name of despicable human greed. We’re also working hard to advocate for the safe return of the 33 baby elephants captured in Zimbabwe in late 2014.) There were some tough moments last year that no one would ever want to repeat.
But despite the setbacks, each time, we rolled up our sleeves and got back to work. And the more we worked, the more we experienced something truly incredible last year: moments of hope. Real, tangible hope that things can and will get better.
We felt that unique rush that comes from throwing your heart, soul, time, and energy into a project… and seeing it pay off. We got the warm fuzzy glow from seeing our cause catch like wildfire, as public awareness began to spread throughout the nation. We shared joy and exhilaration with incredible leaders who made history before our eyes.
And so, as we head into a new year of advocacy and education ahead of us, let’s celebrate how we got here, too. Here are 10 of our favorite moments from our first year!
1. Meeting for the First Time as Elephants DC at the Petworth Citizen (January 2014)
We were just a small group back then, meeting for the first time at our regular meeting location at the Petworth Citizen in Washington, DC. At the time, we didn’t even fully realize what we’d gotten ourselves into when we committed to making this year really count for the elephants who need our help. But there’s nothing like it in the world when you get a small but passionate, determined group together who are ready and willing to make a difference. The energy is contagious, and the inspiration is endless. It was the first of many fantastic meetings to come!
2. Testifying in New York Against the Devastating Ivory Trade (January 2014)
In one of our first acts of being a voice for elephants in 2014, Elephants DC president Jen Samuel testified in favor of ending all ivory trade at the New York Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation on January 16. The hearing addressed the loopholes ivory and rhino horn traffickers have been exploiting in the Empire State, trading raw and new ivory under the guise of “antique,” “bone,” “mammoth” and “jewelry.” New York is considered one of the leading destinations in the world for illegal ivory. Jen said, “The unspoken truth is that the ivory trade serves no legitimate purpose that justifies sanctioning the torture and suffering of endangered elephants until their extinction.”
The Committee on Environmental Conservation event was chaired by State Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney. Those delivering testimony for elephants included: His Excellency Tuvako Manongi, Ambassador and Permanent Representative Permanent Mission of Tanzania to the United Nations and Nkoloi Nkoloi, Deputy Permanent Representative Permanent Mission of the Republic of Botswana to the United Nations; and representatives from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Police Benevolent Association of New York State — among others.
3. Interviewing With NPR and New Jersey Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (July 2014)
July was a particularly intense month for us, and for everyone else fighting to make New Jersey’s full ban of ivory sales a reality. The historic bill, which had received nearly unanimous approval from the New Jersey legislature, was awaiting Governor Chris Christie’s signature that month. We did everything we could to show the Governor how much the people supported ending ivory trade to save elephants that month – from letter-writing campaigns to a video montage and more.
As part of this, Elephants DC president and founder Jen Samuel made a radio appearance on WDVR 89.7, a NPR affiliate in Sergeantsville outside Lambertville, New Jersey, alongside Assemblyman Raj Mukherji to talk about why ending ivory sales matters to New Jerseyans. It was a fantastic interview with Tempus host John Cole and an incredible moment for Elephants DC. You can listen to the interview here.
4. Celebrating New Jersey Completely Banning All Domestic Ivory Sales at Historic Press Conference (August 2014)
On August 5, after months of advocacy for elephants, Governor Christie signed the historic measure to completely ban ivory and rhino sales in New Jersey. We celebrated at a press conference at Maher Terminal in the seaport of Elizabeth, across from New York City, with animal champion and senior New Jersey Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, who first introduced the bill in the Senate. Assemblyman Mukherji, who sponsored the measure in the State Assembly, and representatives from The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International shared the excitement with us. The victory was beyond exhilarating!
5. Delivering Our First (But Not Our Last!) Official Donation to a Field Organization (September 2014)
One of Elephants DC’s primary missions is to rally support for the many vital organizations that are helping elephants on the ground. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is one of these invaluable groups, as they rescue and care for orphaned baby elephants who’ve lost their families from poaching.
In September, Elephants DC officer Ann Clingan Lewis presented our first official donation to DSWT in person in Nairobi, Kenya. We were so proud to fundraise for such a great organization. (We would later go on to donate thousands more to the organization following our WILD for Elephants fundraiser, too.)
6. Meeting With the U.S. Department of State on the Elephant Poaching Crisis (October 2014)
The elephant poaching crisis is a global problem, but the United States has the potential to be a leader in the fight to save elephants from extinction. At the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC, Elephants DC president Jen Samuel briefed Sally Yozell, senior advisor to Under Secretary Catherine A. Novelli, on the challenges facing wild elephants in Africa and Asia, with special emphasis on the ivory crisis. Environmental security, international wildlife trafficking, and law enforcement as well as diplomacy actions and public affairs opportunities were also discussed.
Several Elephants DC advocates also attended and were given the opportunity to voice their concerns at a roundtable meeting held within the Bureau of African Affairs of the State Department. Elephants DC urged for officials to publicly and more vocally decry ivory consumption at home and in China.
7. Marching for Elephants in Washington, DC (October 2014)
In October, we proudly joined cities around the globe marching against extinction by hosting the Second Annual International March for Elephants in Washington, DC. An estimated 800 marchers joined our march, which was followed by an inspiring rally before the White House featuring several truly influential public speakers. But don’t just take our word for it — you can read all about in the fantastic coverage of the event by the National Geographic!
8. Surpassing Our Wildest Expectations at Our WILD for Elephants Fundraiser (October 2014)
After the march, weeks of hard work and planning all came together beautifully as we held our first official Elephants DC fundraising event in Washington, DC, WILD for Elephants. Guests bid on pieces that renowned artists generously donated in our silent auction, and also bought raffle tickets for a score of great prizes. We were optimistic about the funds we would raise – funds which we announced in advance would go 80% to field organizations and 20% to Elephants DC operations.
But we never in our dreams imagined that we would end up raising approximately $16,000 for our field organizations, DSWT and Big Life Foundation! ($5,460 to DSWT, and $10,560 to Big Life Foundation.) The moment when we tallied up the totals and couldn’t believe our eyes is one we’ll never ever forget. Thank you to everyone who helped us make that happen!
9. Watching Elephant DC Advocate Allison Solomon Speak Out Against Poaching on Jeopardy! (October 2014)
We were beyond thrilled that Elephant DC’s advocate on Capitol Hill, the brilliant and one-of-a-kind Allison Solomon, chose to highlight the ivory trade crisis on national TV when she competed in Jeopardy! “I knew jeopardy would be a great platform for eDC and was so happy to use my interview for our cause,” Alison said. You’re our newest hero, Alison!
10. Partnering With Gabon to Help Save Critically Endangered Forest Elephants (October 2014)
Of all the elephants in the world, forest elephants face the most imminent threat of extinction. Swift action is needed now to protect this invaluable keystone species. On October 16 Elephants DC met with Ambassador Michael Moussa-Adamo of the Republic of Gabon to the United States of America to collaborate on ways to protect the African nation’s majestic forest elephants through new education, advocacy, and awareness initiatives, which we are currently developing. Elephants DC is excited to begin working with representatives of the Ministry of Water and Forests and National Parks Agency in January on Gabon’s immediate needs to stop poachers and protect wildlife on the ground and establish specific ways we can help.
Gabon was the first of the three embassies we visited to appeal on behalf of elephants in 2014. (In December, we met with embassy officials in both Kenya and Zimbabwe, too.)