Protecting Elephants

The Ivory Crisis: Urgent and Complex 

It’s estimated that there were 1.2 million elephants in Africa in 1980. Now there are only about 430,000. And the numbers are plummeting – an estimated 30,000 elephants are being killed each year.  

Why? Their tusks. The demand for ivory – carved into figurines, chopsticks, bracelets and other “luxury” items – has skyrocketed in Asian markets, most notably China, as more of the population accumulates wealth. Unfortunately, there is widespread misinformation, leading many consumers to believe that the item they’re buying came from elephants that died of natural causes.

Poaching in Africa is fueled by poverty and conflict, and demand for ivory is increasingly being met by organized crime networks and militias. Ivory is complicated. Get informed.

Helping People Helps Elephants – and Vice Versa 

The Nature Conservancy is ramping up our efforts to protect elephants. Our strong programs in Africa and China enable us to tackle both the supply and demand side of this complex global challenge.  

To ensure that we make the greatest impact, we focus on connecting, strengthening and supporting the great work of many partnersbecause by working together we can all achieve more. 

And most importantly, we work closely with communities where elephants range. The fate of elephants ultimately rests in the hands of the people who live among them. That’s why we focus on community-based conservation and work to find ways to ensure that nature conservation improves people’s lives. 

For example, we work with partners to increase eco-tourism – helping build lodges, roads and other necessary investments – and help ensure that revenue makes its way to local people, creating a financial incentive to protect wildlife. Communities then allocate a portion of funds to education, health care and other necessities.  

We’re also advancing innovative projects that increase income for families and provide new livelihoods, including micro-enterprises for women. Reducing poverty will reduce poaching.  

A Safe Home 

Our local and global approach includes: 

  • Increasing Security: We’re helping to fund, train and equip wildlife rangers, and are providing state of the art technology that enables them to better thwart, track and prosecute poachers.  
  • Securing Habitat. Elephants need vast expanses of healthy habitat – a grassland herd roams about 30 miles per day. We work with partners in many ways to conserve habitat and migration routes across millions of acres. For example, one project involved building a special underpass that enables elephants to move safely under a busy highway. Herds that had been separated were reunited, and elephants were able to move away from farms where eating crops can get them killed. 
  • Reducing Ivory Demand. We’re working with governments in Africa, Asia and the US to help stem the flow of illegal ivory. We're also mobilizing some of China's most influential business leaders to raise awareness and erode the prestige of ivory.

Our network of partners includes: Northern Rangelands Trust, Save the Elephants, Save the Rhino Trust, Kenya Wildlife Service, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, Zambia Wildlife Authority, Tanzania National Park Authority, Space for Giants, Ujamaa Community Resource Team – and you. 

You Can Help 

We need your help – even if that’s just spreading the word to your friends and family. A recent study found that as much as 70 percent of people most likely to donate to support important causes get their information from people they know via social media. 

The fate of these embattled giants is not sealed yet, but we need your help to ensure that there will always be wild elephants in Africa. 

Get action alerts – as well as updates on our progress – by following us on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. 

Population statistics sourced from Save The Elephants.


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