News Updates

National Geographic: landmark series of articles on the ivory trade, which includes audio, video and photographs

August 2015

How Killing Elephants Finances Terror in Africa

By Bryan Christy, August 12, 2015

Armed groups help fund operations by smuggling elephant ivory. Can fake tusks with hidden GPS trackers thwart them? (cover story)

Portraits: Ivory’s Human Toll

By Photographer Brent Stirton

Maps: Illegal Tusk Trade

Who Buys Ivory? You’d Be Surprised

By Mark Strauss, August 12, 2015

Obama to launch major wildlife trafficking initiative in Africa

By Juliet Eilperin,Washington Post, July 1, 2013

President Obama will launch a new initiative in Tanzania on Monday aimed at combating illegal wildlife trafficking, according to White House officials.

Using his executive authority, Obama will convene a Cabinet-level task force composed of the State, Interior and Justice departments that will be charged with devising a national strategy to curb the illegal trade of wildlife across the globe. The initiative also will include $10 million specifically earmarked for addressing poaching in Africa, particularly of rhinos and elephants.

Grant Harris, the senior director for Africa for the National Security Council, told reporters aboard Air Force One that Obama also will announce that he will detail a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official to Tanzania to help them tackle the issue. (read complete article)

Act Now Or We Lose the Elephants: Researcher

By South China Morning Post, June 17, 2013

China’s insatiable appetite for ivory may mean the end for the animals if Beijing doesn’t ban the trade, for which Hong Kong is a transit hub.

More than 7 per cent of the world’s elephants were killed for their tusks in the space of a year – the “worst in history”, according to one researcher.

And with over 40 per cent of the ivory haul bound for China, the biggest market for tusks, Joyce Poole, co-director of conservation group Elephant Voices, is urging Beijing to step in and ban the trade. (read complete article)

Battle for the Elephants: Full One-hour Episode

By National Geographic Television on, premiered February 27, 2013

The elephant, Earth’s most charismatic and majestic land animal, today faces market forces driving the value of its tusks to levels once reserved for gold. This groundbreaking National Geographic special goes undercover to expose the criminal network behind ivory’s supply and demand. It also demonstrates how the elephant is far more complex than ever imagined. (Note: In South Africa, only part of the video is available as a series of episodes due to rights restrictions at

China’s Ivory Craze Is Killing Africa’s Elephants

By Juliet Fuisz, Amanpour blogs, CNN, May 10th, 2013

In this 6-minute video Christiane Amanpour previews a National Geographic documentary called “Battle for the Elephants”, in which reporter Bryan Christy investigated how Asia’s booming ivory industry is keeping African poachers in business.

Blood Ivory

By Carl Safina, The New York Times, Feb 11, 2013

Kenyan rangers recently killed two poachers nearby. Three days later, poachers shot three more elephants. Jobs here are few. Many poachers are young men with nothing to lose except their lives.

Ivory is about poverty, ethnic rivalry, terrorism and civil war. Elephant blood lubricates the flow of human blood. Blood ivory has been helping to finance Al Qaeda’s Al Shabab wing; Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army and Sudan’s murderous Janjaweed. That a craving for carvings fuels this is symptomatic of distant and detached international markets, regulators, consumers and governments caring nothing for whom they hurt. Ivory is not just about elephants. In some ways, I wish it were.Blood Ivory

Ivory sales must stop or Africa’s elephants could soon be extinct, says Jane Goodall

by John Vidal, The Observer, Saturday 15 December 2012

Jane Goodall, one of the world’s greatest conservationists, has made an impassioned plea for a worldwide ban on the sale of ivory to prevent the extinction of the African elephant….

“A massive tragedy is unfolding in some parts of Africa. This is desperately serious, unprecedented,” she said. “We believe that Tanzania has lost half its elephants in the last three years. Ugandan military planes have been seen over the Democratic Republic of the Congo shooting elephants from the air. Armed militia are now shooting the elephants.” (Read complete article: Ivory Sales Must Stop)

Elephant Birth Control: South Africa Plans Campaign To Avoid Population Explosion

By Jon Herskovitz, Johannesburg (Reuters) August 15, 2012

A South African province home to thousands of elephants is planning a birth control campaign for the pachyderms to prevent a population explosion that could threaten plants and wildlife.

Unlike other parts of Africa where elephant stocks have dwindled to dangerously low levels due to poaching and a loss of habitat, South Africa has seen its populations steadily grow through conservation, with the country pressed for room to house the massive animals with hefty diets. Read the complete article about: Elephant Birth Control at

Sickening Elephants’ Graveyard Caused by Hatred and Greed

Ivory Wars: Out of Africa By Stuart Winter, April 8, 2012

Note: This article refers to an hour-long program that originally aired on: 12/April/2012.   Watch it at BBC1 Panorama programs.

The stench of rotting elephant flesh hangs heavily in the midday air. Vultures circle menacingly overhead, hyenas are gathering. As far as the eye can see, hundreds of grotesquely maimed carcasses are scattered through the African bush.

The elephants’ graveyard is the sickening work of horseback bandits. They mowed down their prey, and in some cases lay in wait to shoot surviving animals returning to mourn the dead.

The murderous gangs are playing out the most gruesome episode so far in a global crime conspiracy linking African political turmoil and organised Asian racketeering through the soaring value of illegal ivory. (read complete article)

Effects of temporarily lifting the ban on trade in ivory…

Amid Legal Ivory Trade, Illegal Sales Grow by Pete Browne: August 25, 2009

When the United Nations Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species—or CITES—temporarily lifted a ban on sales of ivory last year, the aim was to feed voracious markets in Asia with ivory from existing stockpiles (or from elephants that had died naturally), generating much-needed income for Africa.

Supporters of the move pointed out that a similar relaxation of the rules in the late 1990s did not lead to an increase in poaching, and that proceeds from such sales were at least partly used to improve conservation efforts. Some 50 tons of ivory were sold to Japan at the time, generating $5 million for Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

It’s not working out quite so well this time around. (read complete article)

News Update, continued

Although elephants are far more distantly related to us than the great apes, they seem to have evolved similar social and cognitive capacities making complex social systems and intelligence part of this picture. These parallels between humans and elephants suggest a convergent cognitive evolution possibly related to complex sociality and cooperation.

— Joshua Plotnik, Yerkes’ Living Links Center