Hillary and Chelsea Clinton on stage at the WCS event at the Central Park Zoo June 12, 2014. Photo © Julie Larsen Maher / WCS.
Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and her daughter Chelsea are urging for further action to protect elephants from the devastating ivory trade.
Speaking last night at a fundraiser for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) held at the Central Park Zoo, the Clintons described the recent surge in elephant poaching as a “crisis” that extends well beyond animal welfare concerns.
“We’ve reached a crisis point and 96 elephants a day [killed] is just a horrifying number,” the former first lady said. “At this rate African forest elephants will be extinct within ten years. So we don’t have any time left.”
“It’s an ecological disaster and it also threatens to undermine security, stability and economic development in many parts of Africa and beyond,” she added, noting that terror groups, including Al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda are slaughtering elephants to finance operations with blood ivory.
Baby elephant in South Africa. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
Chelsea, who produced a segment on the ivory trade for NBC News, added that zoos like those run by WCS play a key role in raising awareness about wildlife, spurring people to care about the plight to elephants, rhinos, and other species.
“For so many of us, our love of wildlife and appreciation of the greater ecosystem in which we all live, does start in zoos,” Chelsea said.
The Clintons are actively supporting efforts to protect African elephants via the “Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants”, which was launched last year at the Clinton Global Initiative. The project is convening hundreds of stakeholders in elephant conservation, including NGO’s, governments, the private sector, and community groups.
Elephant in Namibia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
WCS is playing a leading role in the effort with its “96 Elephants” campaign, which goes after both supply and demand in the ivory trade, bolstering law enforcement, increasing protection of wild elephants, and running public awareness campaigns in the U.S. and Asia, the primary markets for elephant ivory.
WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper said having high-level support from people like the Clintons is key to stopping the slaughter, which WCS estimates may amount to 35,000 elephants a year.
“Secretary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton are strong allies in helping us build great momentum around the globe to save Africa’s elephants.”
The event also honored long-time conservationist and WCS supporter Diane Christensen who has spent decades working in remote parts of the world studying and protecting wildlife and indigenous communities.
Samper, WCS Chair of the Board Ward W. Woods, and WCS Chair of the Board Ward W. Woods. Photo © Julie Larsen Maher / WCS
“Diane Christensen has worked with WCS to protect the world’s wildlife for more than a decade,” said Samper. “She is a key player on the WCS conservation team.”