Last fall, the Wildlife Conservation Society established a campaign called 96 Elephants to focus attention on the senseless slaughter of these magnificent, highly intelligent animals. The campaign, named for the average number of African elephants killed each day, brings together governments, ordinary citizens and non-governmental organizations to stop the illegal ivory trade and save this extraordinary and iconic species.

Since 2002, African forest elephant numbers have plummeted 65 percent. An estimated 35,000 elephants were slaughtered across Africa by poachers in 2012 alone. Though the trade in ivory is driven primarily to feed demand in China, where carved ivory is considered a status symbol to members of a rising middle class, you may be surprised to know the U.S. is a major destination for illegal ivory and has one of the largest markets outside of Asia.

Ivory poaching is a disturbingly lucrative business. Once the work of local villagers seeking to provide food and security for their families, it has in recent years evolved into a sophisticated and highly-coordinated criminal enterprise with armed gangs operating at night with helicopters and night vision goggles, slaughtering elephants with high-powered weapons.The 96 Elephants campaign rests on three pillars to address the crisis: stop the killing, stop the trafficking and stop the demand. To stop the killing, we are working to better enable park guards to safely do their jobs and employing high-tech tools to track poachers. We are also working to educate the public and representatives of government in the United States, Europe and elsewhere about the crisis and the need for a ban on ivory’s sale and purchase.

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