Saving the African Elephant


From the introduction to Saving the African Elephant: A Call to Spiritual Responsibility in National Geographic:

The Society for Conservation Biology‘s Religion and Conservation Research Collaborative released a statement last week calling upon the world’s religious leaders to stop using elephant ivory.  As the statement notes, “In addition to the ethical concerns raised by the possible extinction of elephant populations or species, the ivory trade is associated with considerable bloodshed for humans as well as elephants.”  The Collaborative concludes that “the requirements of religion and conservation should be and, indeed, can be complementary in reaching the best possible outcome whereby religious faith is respected and the future of elephants safeguarded.” 

It is a hopeful message.  Along with his colleagues Stephen Mufutau Awoyemi, Founding Chair of the Collaborative, has also written this essay. In the essay he recommends the following three steps that scientists can take.

  • Provide awareness and educational tools for use by religious leaders to reorient their adherents about religious ivory and to elicit an empathic response on the plight of the African elephant.
  • Encourage religious leaders to issue public statements on the severity of the ivory trade and the direct and negative impact that the use of ivory has on elephant populations and local communities and, where appropriate, on the relevant teachings of their religions concerning the need to exercise proper stewardship of creation.
  • Urge religious leaders to issue statements to their followers discouraging the use of ivory for religious artifacts (e.g., statues or amulets) and instead use other material (e.g., fiberglass, wood) as substitutes and seek to engage religious leaders in consultations concerning which materials are most suitable from a conservation, as well as a religious, standpoint.

Scroll down the webpage for a 4-minute video of elephants up close as filmed by Nick Nichols.


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