U.S. Teens Form Nonprofit To Help Save Elephants

Elephant Extinction Likely Within Decade

When Max Kauderer saw the body of a dead elephant during a family trip to Africa two years ago, it wasn’t only the body that horrified him; it was the apathy of the natives to seeing this gentle, intelligent creature killed.

“The rangers reacted to it as it were almost normal to them,” said Max, a 17-year-old Englewood resident. “It was just shocking to me. I could never get used to that. It showed me that they shouldn’t have to get used to this either.”

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Seeing the murdered elephant ignited a spark in Max and his brother Josh, 16, to aid elephant conservation by starting a non-profit called “Elephant Highway,” named after the Maasai term for the paths elephants create as they travel.

While Max and Josh saw a large number of animals during their trip to Kenya and Tanzania in 2012, the two quickly fell in love with elephants. The pair were enamored with how similar elephants were to humans.

“They can show emotion, compassion and the ability to grieve,” said Max. “They play with toys, build toys and live in families. It’s pretty amazing.”

Their joy of learning more about these creatures quickly turned to horror when two park rangers came running in their lodge one afternoon, announcing that an elephant was just killed by poachers a mile and half from where the Kauderer family was staying. Max and Josh would later visit the fenced off area where the elephant was killed, where the body was still in sight.

“I knew about ivory trade and elephants being killed, but it still changes you when you see something so rapidly,” said Josh. “The smell of dead carcass; it really changes the whole situation.”

Seeing the dead elephant in person made the two brothers ask tour guides on their trip more about elephants and the ivory trade, becoming shocked about the scope of the trade.

“Crime syndicates are focusing on elephant poaching and smuggling ivory tusks,” said Josh. “It’s just as bad as any other kind of drug trade.”

According to the American Wildlife Foundation, there are 470,000 elephants remaining in 37 African countries. On a yearly basis, poachers kill 8 percent of the elephant population.

When Max and Josh returned to the United States, their experiences made them want to take a stand against poaching. They didn’t originally think of starting a non-profit, and instead focused their awareness efforts by speaking at local schools about elephant poaching. As time went on, they felt liked they wanted to do something more.

“We realized we also wanted to raise money for these organizations in Africa and make a difference there as well,” said Max.

The two went to work creating Elephant Highway, which is pending 501c3 status, to raise awareness about poaching and raise money to help African elephant conservation organizations.

The non-profit, run entirely by the two Englewood teens – which sells shirts, hoodies, and bracelets – raised approximately $10,000 since its inception in 2012. All proceeds from the merchandise, which bears the tagline “Only Elephants Should Wear Ivory,” are donated to Elephant Highway’s four non-profit partners: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Big Life Foundation, Hands Off Our Elephants, and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

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Their dedication to protecting elephants shows in the vast array of knowledge they display on the subject.

Sitting in the Starbucks in Englewood, clad in Elephant Highway gear, the two were quick to bring up the latest in elephant poaching news, from a Chinese national being arrested for possession of 4 kilograms of ivory early this year to the latest efforts by Kenya to adopt the Kenya Wildlife Act, which increases penalties for poachers.

“Within a few years, they will be extinct if we don’t do something,” said Max.

Running a non-profit is never an easy task, but for high school students, the task becomes even more difficult when trying to balance their studies, after-school sports, and clubs. As a result, most of the work for the non-profit is done on the weekend, but the two also make sure to squeeze Elephant Highway work into their schedules.

Their non-profit also offers people a chance to “Adopt-an-Elephant,” or purchase a beaded elephant keychain made by artists in northern Kenya and South Africa. This symbolic adoption sends money back to villages in Kenya and South Africa to help village economies in the hopes people will not turn toward poaching to put food on the table, said Max

“A lot of people who kill elephants for their tusks are people who don’t really have a choice,” said Max. “They are people who live in really poor regions of Africa. They’re choosing between the lives of these elephants and the lives of their families, so a lot of the times, it’s not necessarily their fault.”

Max and Josh spend many weekends packing and shipping merchandise to supporters. They also spend nine hours twice a month at street fairs during the spring and summer in Bergen County towns and New York City, hoping to spread their message.

Max and Josh spend many weekends packing and shipping merchandise to supporters. They also spend nine hours twice a month at street fairs during the spring and summer in Bergen County towns and New York City, hoping to spread their message.

While most people are aware that elephants are killed for their ivory tusks, Max said most are shocked when they discover how large the issue has become.

“People say isn’t ivory illegal?” said Max. “They don’t realize it’s still going on. Thirty-thousand elephants were killed last year. That shocks everyone I tell it to.”

Eventually, Max and Josh would also like to expand to rhino conservation, as rhinos are similarly hunted for their horns. But for now, the two will continue to save the creatures that became part of their lives in so many ways.

“If there are no elephants, the entire ecosystems in Africa would really die,” said Max.

To learn more about Elephant Highway, visit http://www.elephanthighway.org

Source: http://www.northjersey.com/community-news/in-africa-finding-their-calling-1.745915#sthash.hzuArSHR.dpuf

public relations firm and public affairs firm Denver and Phoenix

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting forest conservation, reforestation, sustainable agriculture, and wildlife conservation through its subsidiary–Sacred Seedlings. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.

U.S. Sending Mixed Messages On Illegal Ivory Trade

Ivory Law Falls Short On Trophy Imports

With many species of wildlife currently threatened by extinction, including the African elephant, the White House announced on Tuesday a ban on the sale of ivory within the USA. The executive order, signed by President Barack Obama, is part of a plan aiming to crack down on the trafficking of wildlife in general in the United States. The move is being hailed by animal conservationists as a “significant milestone” in the worldwide fight against poaching of the pachyderms.

poaching elephants for ivoryThe importation of ivory has been banned in the USA since 1989. However, the new plan, which is part of the National Strategy on Wildlife Trafficking, aims to go further, by banning the sale of the majority of ivory products in the country altogether, as well as limiting sport-hunted trophies to a maximum of two per hunter each year.

The problem is that despite the ban on importation, ivory products can still be found in antique and art stores in most cities across the USA, according to senior administration officials. One official, requesting anonymity, told the media that the only place to see the majesty of these items is on actual living elephants or rhinoceros, in their native habitat.

The new initiative comes as soaring ivory prices have attracted increased trafficking, mainly through criminal groups. Reportedly ivory sells these days for $1,500 per pound.

In the Africa of the past, millions of elephants used to roam the plains, but with around 35,000 elephants lost every year to poachers, the total number of elephants remaining is down to around 500,000 or possibly even less.

Dame Daphne Sheldrick is a conservationist who says that the demands could wipe out the elephant species in about 10 to 15 years. She estimates that one of these magnificent creatures is killed every 15 minutes by poachers in Africa.

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To give an example of numbers remaining, Kenya reportedly had 170,000 elephants 30 years ago, but now has only an estimated 30,000 remaining. In Gabon, alone, over a third of the country’s forest elephants have been lost in the last ten years. Reportedly in the Minkebe National Park, on the border with Cameroon, losses are even higher, with around 15,000 of the remaining 22,000 killed by poachers.

Hence the urgency is reaching a peak and in an attempt to stem the flow of ivory in illegal and other sales, the White House has now announced the ban of the sale of elephant ivory in the USA.

In 2013, Tanzania adopted a shoot to kill policy when dealing with suspected poachers.  Dubbed “Operation Terminate,” the policy apparently was working well and numbers of elephants killed was cut, but the policy was dropped due to a claim of human rights abuses in the country.

There are a few exceptions, however, to the new rules.  For instance, if sellers can prove that their item for sale is over 100 years old, this would be allowed.

wildlife conservation Tanzania

 

Also of interest is that not only elephants and rhinos will be protected by the new initiative. Animals ranging from tigers to turtles, which are often slaughtered for their hides or other parts for sale by criminal syndicates, will also come under its protection.

The video included below gives details of a recent massacre by poachers in Kenya, where an entire family of these magnificent creatures were gunned down for their ivory. Warning, the video is graphic and may upset sensitive viewers.

Officials also announced that in 2014, besides the ban of the sale of elephant ivory in the USA by the White House, Congress has given an additional $3 million to enforce the wildlife trafficking laws.

For more information about saving endangered species and endangered ecosystems in East Africa, please visit http://sacredseedlings.com/east-africa-projects/

public relations firm and public affairs firm Denver and Phoenix

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting forest conservation, reforestation, sustainable agriculture, and wildlife conservation through its subsidiary–Sacred Seedlings. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.