The Independent’s campaign to save the elephant has raised more than £500,000 for an East African-based charity dedicated to protecting the species, making it the most successful in this newspaper’s history.
The Elephant Appeal, which was launched in December, drew the world’s attention to a crisis. Some 100 elephants are slaughtered every day in Africa to satisfy the ivory market, driven largely by China.
Populations in the wild could be wiped out within a decade, but demand for ivory is booming: at least 45 tonnes were seized in 2013, believed to be the biggest annual haul in a quarter of a century. The murder of elephants all feeds into the £12bn illegal wildlife trade – the world’s fourth biggest illegal trade after narcotics, human trafficking and counterfeiting.
Yet there are tangible solutions. With the help of our readers, and some high-profile support, The Independent and its sister titles have raised £502,348 for our partner charity, Space for Giants.
The charity, based in Kenya, has signed a contract guaranteeing that all the money donated will be spent on conservation work to make an immediate difference, with not one penny going towards administrative costs.
But it’s not just about money. We have reported from across Africa on the criminal syndicates that control the illegal wildlife trade, the poachers who end up behind bars, the people who live among the elephants, and the countries that fear for their tourism industries.
The Independent on Sunday revealed that Prince William wants to destroy all of the ivory in Buckingham Palace and discovered that the crisis is not just about elephants: around 1,000 rangers have tragically lost their lives in the bid to stop their country’s wildlife being gunned down, while families across the continent have been torn apart by the trade. Terrorist groups, including al-Shabaab, are said to partly fund their activities through the sale of ivory.
Almost 1,500 people signed our petition which called on world leaders to commit to better training and resources for rangers; to provide education in places such as Asia; to stamp down on corruption and implement laws against those involved in the trade; to help communities develop sustainable livelihoods; and to uphold the ban on the trade.
Mary Rice, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, said the campaign was “instrumental in helping the issues to achieve a huge public profile in the run-up to the watershed London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade”.
At that conference last week, delegates from 46 governments agreed to treat poaching and trafficking as “serious crimes”. They pledged for the first time to renounce the use of any products from species threatened by extinction; to support the commercial prohibition on the international trade in elephant ivory until the survival of elephants is no longer threatened by poaching; and to encourage countries to destroy their illegal stockpiles of wildlife products, such as rhino horn and ivory.
The governments of Botswana, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania even signed the Elephant Protection Initiative – guaranteeing to put their ivory stockpiles beyond economic use and observe a moratorium on international trade for a minimum of 10 years.
We have many supporters. “The Independent deserves enormous credit for its campaigning journalism which has done so much to demonstrate why the illegal trade in wildlife products, including elephant ivory and rhino horn, is an issue we should all care about,” said Labour leader Ed Miliband, who along with celebrities including Sir Elton John, Clare Balding, Stephen Fry, and Damian Lewis, backed the campaign.
Artists such as Damien Hirst, the Chapman Brothers and Tracey Emin kindly donated artworks to be auctioned off for the appeal. The Gertler Family Foundation – the largest charitable organisation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – also backed the campaign.
Dr Max Graham, founder of Space for Giants, said the campaign has been “transformational”. He believes 2014 will “be the year the tide turned for elephants, forever.” Others agree. “Half a million pounds will have a huge impact,” said Dr Paula Kahumbu, executive director of Kenyan-based charity WildlifeDirect. “My hope is that it will also lead to local capacity building, so people will become champions for elephants; generating revenue so that it becomes an investment, not just a charitable donation.”
We hope so too. We’ll keep you informed.