The story continues and, as they say, 'the plot thickens'! It is getting more complicated, but read on and follow the money. And that will lead you to the Elephants!
As you may recall in my last 3 diaries (12/02/13,12/17/13, and 04/ 30/14) I explained how I became involved with the elephants and the crisis surrounding them. After studying and researching for hundreds of hours, and speaking to those who were able to educate me further, I culled all the information to create a visual map in my head that combined the history, the numbers, the players, and the role of government. It was a labyrinth of advocacy groups, NGOs, and governments around the world, many of which were laced with corruption. Once I had a detailed picture of the entire landscape, it was clear that the need for new legislation, precise definitions, and specific penalties and their enforcement were critical. There needed to be an understanding of where the corruption was, and what steps should be taken to stop the illegal ivory trade and prevent the most certain extinction of the Elephant species by the year 2020!
The realities I studied and the spread of the news and public awareness, albeit still in its infancy, convinced me that the plight of the elephant really was approaching the Zeitgeist. My perspective of this situation became solidified; it would not be just my fight or mission. I knew that myself and the other core advocates would do whatever it took to wake everyone up and make sure that they and took notice. We would not stop until the universe bellowed, 'STOP THE ILLEGAL IVORY TRADE NOW’! It must become part of the collective consciousness!
On January 16th of this year I was one of the 10 speakers to testify before Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (NY) and his committee on the issue of “Effectiveness of the Ivory Laws in the State of the New York, and their Enforcement”. (https://www.youtube.com/...? v=CM53cCL5pwU&feature=em-share_video_user 0 Among others who gave testimony were United Nations Representatives from Tanzania and Botswana, and representatives from the Humane Society, USFWS, and local, state, and nationalNGO law enforcement officials, and NGOs..
The evidence and testimony from each speaker was stunningly similar. The facts were the same:
I. The United States is #2 in illegal Ivory trading in the world behind China, and New York is #1 in the U.S.
II. Poaching has escalated to a terrorist level; hundreds of low flying helicopters with terrorists equipped with night vision goggles and AK 47s mow down herds of elephants while
ground troops charge in with tools to hack off the elephants’ tusks. Others are poisoned with cyanide, not only killing the elephants but other species as well and destroying entire ecosystems in the region. The cruelest are the arrows which leave the Elephants paralyzed yet totally conscious while their tusks are hacked off. Even the horrific kidnapping of the Nigerian school girls by Boko Haram was funded by illegal Ivory money! As well as the bombing of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi last fall!
III. The 3 most lucrative crimes for generating funds internationally are:
1) Human trafficking
3) Poaching and illegal trading of Ivory
This was probably the most unknown aspect of this dreadful crime.
IV. Current statistics estimate that the elephant population in Africa will be extinct by the end of this decade. (The elephant population in 1980 was approx. 1.87 million. Today it is about 500,000.) http://america.aljazeera.com/... groupswarnthatelephantpopulationisrapidlydecreasing.html
Since the hearing in January by Assemblyman Sweeney, much work has been done and I am proud to announce the New York State passed an historic bill on June 20th for a complete and total ban on the sale of any ivory. The same bill is sitting on Gov. Chris Christie's (New Jersey) desk. Even Meryl Streep publicly urged the Governor to sign this bill. http:/ www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2014/06/meryl-streep-new-jersey-ivory-rhino- horn-061714.html
One area of concern has been voiced for months is from musicians, as many instruments have parts made of ivory, such as bridges on guitars and piano keys (antiques). One of the most prolific and well-loved musicians, Billy Joel, has spoken out about why Ivory should be banned! http://kearth101.cbslocal.com/... make-ivory-pianos
Additionally, the Global Summit held in the UK last February demanded an end to the trading of Ivory and poaching of Elephants and Rhinos. President Obama called for a Federal ban on Ivory as well as many other countries.
I am so proud of all of us who had the historic opportunity to testify at the hearing in January. So many have worked tirelessly, all around the United States and the world. In my closing remarks I asked Assemblyman Sweeney to declare a Day of the Elephants in NY in 2014 and to offer complete amnesty for those who voluntarily relinquish ivory at this time. I’m happy to announce that the date is set: September 27th at Columbia University in NYC. By reviewing social media you will certainly see that it IS the Year of the Elephant! In addition, all over the world in October, there will be hundreds of thousands of people marching for the Second Annual March for Elephants and Rhinos!
We must act now or the elephants will be gone! The timing is critical, for the sake of the elephants as well as others. Ivory money fueling terrorism is a threat that none of us can ignore! How did Boko Haram fund the recent kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls? How did Al Shabab fund the bombing of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi last November? The illegal ivory trade continues to produce casualties, not only animal￼￼￼￼￼￼￼, but human as well. This is far more than a sentimental cause for these magnificent creatures...(which is enough reason for me); this is a highly sophisticated organized crime that ranks among the most heinous acts in our world today. Now, it is time to get to the war front! We must fight to stop this. My next diary will focus on how we can take the next step together!
If you have a desire to be part of the movement to Save the Elephants in any capacity please let me know in your comments. I can direct you to the best people and organizations around the country and the world that will suit your interests and commitment level. No matter what you do, you will make a difference! Be a part of the solution.
I would like to extend a special thank you to all of you who have supported me in my quest to receive a scholarship to attend Netroots Nation this week. I will learn from the best and brightest, and return ready to fight and lead others so that we can stop this atrocity once and for all!
There is nothing we can’t do. Just remember to ask yourself, “What About the Elephants?’”