Top Chicago Cultural Organizations Join Fight to Stop African Elephant Slaughter;
United States is second largest market for elephant ivory
Brookfield and Lincoln Park Zoos, Shedd Aquarium join 96 Elephants Campaign as global ivory smuggling network linked to Chicago
As recent news reports link Chicago to a global smuggling network for elephant ivory that is financing terrorist organizations and causing the rapid decline of wild African elephants, three of Chicago’s top cultural organizations today announced their participation in a national campaign to stem the demand for ivory, close state and federal loopholes that allow for ivory sales and transactions in the United States, and raise consumer awareness about elephant ivory.
The Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo, John G. Shedd Aquarium, and Lincoln Park Zoo have joined the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society as partners along with more than 100 other accredited zoos and aquariums in the recently launched 96 Elephants Campaign, an effort focused on securing a U.S. moratorium on illegal ivory, bolstering protection of African elephants, and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis.
“There is an urgent need to stop the sale and trade of ivory in the United States,” said Stuart Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. “Elephants are being brutally slaughtered in Africa to satisfy consumer demand for elephant ivory, which is causing the rapid population decline of the world’s largest land mammal and financing terrorist organizations.”
Throughout Africa, elephant numbers have plummeted by 76 percent since 1980 due largely to the demand of elephant ivory with an estimated 35,000—or 96 per day—slaughtered by poachers in 2012 alone. Researchers believe that Africa’s savannah elephants and their smaller forest cousins may be extinct within two decades.
The U.S. is the world’s second largest importer of ivory. Much of this trade is currently legal under a confusing set of U.S. regulations that perpetuates black market sales of illegal ivory. A moratorium on ivory sales within the United States is one clear and simple rule that will help elephants and reduce what is a significant funding source for international crime syndicates and terrorist organizations.
To help bring initial awareness at the county level, Strahl will appear before the Board of Commissioners of the Forest Preserves of Cook County at its Tuesday, May 20, regular monthly meeting to announce the partnership among the cultural organizations and action that is needed to stem the decline for elephant ivory.
Additionally, during the Chicago City Council meeting on Wednesday, May 28, a resolution for the Campaign will be introduced on behalf of Aldermen Michele Smith (43rd ward), Robert Fioretti (2nd ward), and William Burns (4th ward). And finally, on a state level, the three organizations will be using the summer and fall months to engage members of the Illinois General Assembly about the urgent need for a state-wide moratoria banning the import and/or sale of ivory in Illinois and to educate state lawmakers about the involvement of terrorist organizations in the ivory trade.
All three institutions are encouraging the public to learn more about the plight of elephants in the wild and to support the 96 Elephants Campaign by taking the pledge at www.96elephants.org.
“By joining together and taking action now, we can save elephants by reducing the demand for poached ivory and shutting down the trade, thus doing our part to save wild African elephants from extinction,” added Strahl.