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Ebbing the Flow of Ivory

People are bored of the story; elephants and rhinos are getting poached, animals being exploited for their tusks to boost egos in the Far East. What’s new? There is nothing as boring as news that’s not new.

We have heard this same message since the 1980’s. It seems to happen in waves; it hits the headlines, action is taken, everyone assumes the problem is dealt with and then it rears its butchered head again sometime later. Every time it gets re-reported our level of ennui rises.

We have seen the photos of elephants with their tusks chainsawed out of their heads, carcases bullet ridden by AK 47′s. We have been as shocked as an innocent bystander ever could be.

So why care now?
We have bigger fish to fry than worrying about elephants – they won’t ever really get wiped out will they? After all, everyone loves elephants and they are an intrinsic part of our psyche. From childhood they appear in fuzzy felt cartoon books, as stuffed toys and as a comic figure always hilariously squirting water.

The problem is that parts of Africa are losing elephants to poaching at a rate that means extinction shortly. This is a fact. Whole gene pools are being wiped out, enclaves are protected but these are untenable in the long term. Every news report about wildlife in Africa is tempered by reports of slaughter for tusks – the figures are beyond depressing. What can be done? The problem isn’t being addressed by governments and there are claims of complicity to make a fast buck, there are too few rangers to police the ground and the rewards are too high for the locals not to want a piece of the action before it is too late and there are none left.

It’s not as simple as no longer buying ivory as we don’t do that anyhow. So how do we change our stance from innocent bystander to getting involved? Money will go some way to supporting patrols but this will not cure the demand.

The story of China crushing 6 tonnes of ivory this week might well be a political red herring but it’s not old news there – it went viral with the story reaching over 10 million Chinese Nationals. The answer must therefore lie in digital social media to educate the end user and create a dearth of demand.

Never thought I would want people to engage through social media as much as right now, but that’s exactly what we need to do.

Steppes Travel champion the work of Tusk Trust and Save the Rhino for exactly these reasons, working to conserve viable populations of critically endangered elephants and rhinos and campaigning to raise awareness.Join us and make some noise on social media, you may even be interested in where our very own Ryan the Steppes Rhino has travelled with us in 2013.