On 4 October, over 130 countries joined a global march to protect elephants and rhinos
referred to as the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos (GMFER). This widely participated
global march coincided with the World Animal Day.
In Nairobi, more than 1,000 people trekked a 10 kilometres route passing the downtown
traffic and hooting cars in response to signs held by marchers that read “Hoot To Support The
This global initiative started in Kenya on January 2013 in response to eleven elephants killed
and hacked off their tusks, the latest large slaughter of the animals to be reported amid
insatiable global demand for ivory in Tsavo Conservancy Centre, in the southeastern part of
Kenya, according to a CNN report.
As a wildlife enthusiast and a foreigner in Kenya, I found myself in awe bumping into well
known campaigners for elephants and rhinos; one of which is Dr. Paula Kahumbu, CEO of
Wildlife Direct and the initiator of “Hands Off Our Elephants” campaign. Dr. Kahumbu said
that “it is all our responsibility to stop the demand for elephant ivory and rhino horn” from
consuming countries such as China and Vietnam. Her organization is currently partnering
with tour companies and airlines to put an end to poaching banking on the New Wildlife
Conservation Act that imposes life inprisonement for poaching in Kenya.
Juliani, a well-known singer in Kenya who is also a staunch advocate for elephants and
rhinos said that these animals should be protected because it is “our heritage and part of our
(Kenyan) culture. . . are our (Kenyan) pride in general”.
Peter Moll, a young founder of a youth NGO called “Stand Up Shout Out” said in a speech
during the march that “when Kenya loses its elephants and rhinos, most Kenyans will then be
out of jobs” highlighting the symbiotic relationship between wildlife, tourism and jobs. Kenya
is reeling from a very high unemployment rate among its youth.
A reformed poacher challenged everyone to treat elephants like they are part of us; “let’s take
care of them”; while, the US ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec pledged to commit resources
to take care of Africa’s elephants and rhinos.
Many around the world marched for a good cause towards helping rhinos and elephants
on that Saturday. Now that the march is over, what’s the next ? Yes, there are lots of NGOs
pledging their wholesome intention through their vision and mission statements and lots of
international talks have been held at the United Nations level, all in the name of preventing
elephants and rhinos extinction.
There are still ivory shops in China, both legal and lllegal which make lucrative profit from
tusks that are priced at around USD 1,600 each.
According to reports, Kenya currently sits at number one spot in ivory trade. Ivory is
reportedly being used by the Somali terrorist group, al-Shabaab, responsible for September
2013’s terror at Westgate Mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people, to be exported to China to
buy firearms hence making this situation not only a concern in the grim future of elephant
population, but also of global security.
What are we doing as world citizens to stop this from happening? Ideally we don’t want to
see elephant orphanages or elephant conservation centres receiving orphans because their
mothers were killed by poachers (as baby elephants can suffer from such trauma) for their
tusks in Africa or because of habitat loss from corporations wanting more lands to develop
palm plantations in Indonesia.
Tonnes of tusks, horns and ivories are burned to hype governmental actions against ivory
trade in supplying and demanding countries. But what do these actions mean to the elephant
and rhino population? Nothing, it only means that more of them have been killed. The demand
for ivory in China and other southeast Asian countries are fueling the rampant killings of these
species in Africa.
The unsustainable practice of corporations that produce palm oil in Indonesia gives birth to
orphans in Aceh; the use of elephants for human entertainment in Asia, treats elephants as
commodities, demeaning their importance in the ecology.
Questions surrounding “what to do” shall remain, marches and protests will still occur,
reports on the number of elephants or rhinos killed will still be on news , hashtags like
#SaveElephants, #SaveRhinos will still trend on social medias. Whilst it is okay for these to
still remain, many of us from now on should pick ourselves up and act. After all, we don’t want
to live in a world where our children and our children’s children can only read: “Elephants
and rhinos once roamed the Earth.”
As a writer, an observer and a participant of last Saturday’s global march, I realised that
writing one article is not enough to help. There will surely be more articles to come, this is a
part of the fight against extinction.