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Protecting Elephants: No Simple Task

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Increasing protections and law enforcement, China’s ivory ban, and public actions such as the recent Ivory Crush have helped flip the script on elephant ivory and disrupt its social significance. Great efforts are made every day to detect smuggled ivory in transit and stop poachers in their tracks. And yet, elephants still need more from us. The illegal ivory market remains strong enough to kill an average of 96 of the prodigious pachyderms each day.

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Protecting elephants is no simple task. The illegal trade of ivory, along with other wildlife and wildlife parts, is controlled by dangerous criminal networks, and has been linked to terrorism and the trafficking of drugs, arms and people. Combatting this industry requires international cooperation, strategic intervention at key points of the trafficking chain, and often, good timing.

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Elephants also have an unlikely ally: dogs! We partnered with the African Wildlife Foundation to support its Canine Detection Unit, which employs sniffer dogs in airports, seaports, and border crossings. These dogs demonstrate more than 90% accuracy in detecting even the smallest amounts of ivory and other wildlife products.

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On the other end of the ivory issue is consumer demand. While its social esteem is waning in many parts of the world, ivory is still revered by many as a status symbol. It can be difficult to shift culture – so we’ve partnered with WildAid to support its demand reduction efforts, which feature celebrities and public figures from all over the world in PSAs that encourage people to join them and "be ivory free". This type of social marketing challenges cultural norms in a way that resonates regionally, which is critical to reducing global demand for ivory.

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The ivory trade seems insurmountable at times, but there have been significant wins for elephants in recent years, and through multi-faceted efforts to address demand, poaching, and trafficking, we can secure their future in the wild. The five African elephants that call Cleveland Metroparks Zoo home are a magnificent example of what we stand to lose in the wild if we don’t stand up to protect our largest land mammal.

Read more here about what the Zoo is doing to secure a future for elephants in the wild.

To donate to the Zoo's Future for Wildlife funds, go here and select the dropdown choice "FFW-combat illegal wildlife trade" to designate your gift.

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