What you need to know now about the elephant poaching crisis

Chelsea Clinton talked to “National Geographic Explorer” about the elephant poaching crisis and what can be done to save these majestic animals from extinction.

By: Clinton Foundation Editorial Team

On a recent episode of “National Geographic Explorer,” Chelsea Clinton spoke with Ted Danson about African elephant poaching and its threat to our environment and international security.

In the episode, Chelsea notes how “We lose 96 elephants a day to poaching, and if that rate continues, my children and your grandchildren will grow up in a world without elephants.”

As daunting as the crisis may seem, significant progress has been made in the fight against elephant poaching.

Watch the clip below and keep reading to find out about recent advancements and what you can do to help save African elephants from extinction.

Conservation groups using technology on the front lines

Chelsea Clinton visits the Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. Photo Credit: Barbara Kinney / Clinton Foundation

Elephant poaching rates peaked in 2011. To help address this crisis, the Clinton Global Initiative established the Elephant Action Network to galvanize support around three pillars: 1) stop the killing of elephants, 2) stop the trafficking of ivory, and 3) stop the demand. More than 85 partner organizations have made 24 commitments to date.

This work includes the use of technology to strengthen protection efforts. The vast areas that elephants roam make it difficult for park rangers and other enforcement officials to stop or even catch poachers. Technology is being used to enhance efforts.

GPS collars, like the ones in this picture, are used to track the movement of elephants and improve anti-poaching efforts. Photo Credit: Max W. Orenstein / Clinton Foundation

GPS collars, for example, are being placed on elephants by CGI-member Save the Elephants to track their movements and send alerts when there’s an unusual change in the activity pattern. This enables a more efficient deployment of anti-poaching forces.

Another example is the Wildlife Conservation Society’s 2014 commitment that provides ten countries with funding for capacity building and support to curb the illegal killing and trafficking of elephants, including aerial surveillance and equipment for law enforcement monitoring and intelligence gathering.

New policy efforts tackling the ivory trade

2016 was a big year for combating elephant poaching globally. In December, China, which is the world’s biggest ivory market, announced a ban on all ivory trade and processing activities by the end of 2017. A few months earlier, the United States passed a near-total federal ban on commercial trade of ivory, which prohibits the import, export, and interstate trade of African elephant ivory, with very limited exceptions.

While critical, the federal ban is not enough. It’s estimated that only 10 percent of illegal ivory is confiscated at a country’s borders; the rest enters the marketplace, where it is almost impossible to distinguish from legal ivory. For this reason, shutting down state markets is key. In 2016, Hawaii joined California, New Jersey, New York, and Washington in banning virtually all intrastate ivory sales.

These bans will make it easier to combat illegal ivory trade, and they are a big step forward in the fight to save elephants.

Tiffany & Co. and Ralph Lauren join the effort to stop the demand

New policies and efficient systems to catch poachers and stop trafficking are just part of what needs to be done to combat this complex problem. Curbing the demand for ivory from consumers is also an essential component.

In 2016, at the CGI Annual Meeting, major fashion and consumer brands like Tiffany & Co., Ralph Lauren, Edelman, Doutzen Kroes, and other partners launched a public awareness campaign to educate consumers and curb the demand for elephant ivory. Specifically, the industry influencers will use their global “taste-making” status to showcase their commitments to ivory-free products and lifestyles on multiple media platforms. They will also drive $1 million in donations to the Elephant Crisis Fund, which supports anti-poaching efforts, through their #knotonmyplanet campaign.


Although poaching rates have gone down since their peak in 2011, more must be done to ensure that future generations live in a world with elephants. Learn more about CGI’s Elephant Action Network, as well as some of the great work on the ground from our partners: Save the Elephants, Wildlife Conservation Society, International Fund for Animal Welfare, African Wildlife Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, and The Nature Conservancy.

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