The diameter of the awareness of the illegal trade in wildlife is increasing steadily beyond conservation circles. I see hope in how the general public knows more thoroughly the costs of human desire on individuals, species, and habitats.
For instance I reported in November about wildlife trafficking, highlighting the uptick of massacred elephants killed for their ivory, which is largely used for religious artifacts in Asia. A few weeks ago a family of eleven elephants were murdered in Kenya, including a two month old baby. “We have not lost as many elephants in a single incident since the early 1980s,” said Patrick Omondi, head of the elephant programme at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). “This is a clear signal that things are getting worse. “A kilogramme of ivory can fetch up to $2,500 in the black market, money that comes back to fund extremely organized gangs with sophisticated weapons.”
How is there hope when things are getting worse, with powerful organized crime involved?
Well criminals aren’t the only ones organizing. The Religion and Conservation Research Collaborative of the Society of Conservation Biology released a statement, “On the Use of Ivory for Religious Objects.” Two of the positions in the statement charge religious leaders with the responsibility to use their influence to improve the well being of elephants and humans alike.
Religious leaders have the responsibility and influence to reorient their followers on the procurement and use of religious artifacts made from the ivory of African elephants, and the precarious life of the humans who protect them.
Religion and conservation biology can be complementary in reaching the best possible outcome when religious faith is respected, religious communities are open to understanding the problems pertaining to the use of ivory, and religious leaders are willing to prompt a change in attitudes and practices that ensure the survival of the African elephant and the integrity of our planetary future.
Religious leaders have such widespread influence because “there is a pervasive spread of environmental consciousness within approximately 90% of the global population that claims affiliation with the world religions.”
I dream of a world where every leader, no matter of what organization or movement, speaks passionately of the beauty and tragedy of this world, and the human response to preserve what we can and guard the well being of all.
The elephant in the room is that we are far from doing so.
To help make room for the elephants on this planet, including knowing more and following the statement’s recommendations, go here.