Action for Wildlife: 96 Elephants Campaign

Conservation efforts in Africa: 96 Elephants 96 elephants a day...

This is the number of African Elephants that are currently being killed every day for their tusks. 35,000 elephants were killed in 2012! In 1979 there were an estimated 1.3 million African elephants, by 1989 there remained only 600,000. In 1989, an international ban on selling ivory was created which decreased its value and stopped the demand . . . but only temporarily. Many of the countries in Africa have stockpiles of ivory from seizures and pre-1989, and some of those countries were given permission to have one-off sales of those stockpiles to primarily Asian countries, which in change created demand and increased value once again. In the last decade elephant numbers have begun to plummet and now there is an estimated 400,000 or fewer left. That’s a 76% decline in the elephant population, and over three-fourths of the Forest Elephants that live in Central Africa. If rates continue at this level many populations of elephants may be nearing extinction in ten years. While Asian elephants do suffer from being poached as well, their biggest conservation concern is habitat fragmentation.

The Conservation Issue:

The tusks or ivory of an elephant is a very desirable material and the only way to obtain the tusks of an elephant is to kill them. Due to a growing middle class in China and ivory being used as a symbol of “status in society”, the demand for ivory is at an all-time high. The estimated cost per 1 kg (2.2 lbs) is $1800.00 US dollars. If an average female elephant has about 10 kg of ivory, than each elephant is worth $18,000.00 dollars, and that’s wholesale. The retail value of 10 kg can be sold for $60,000 dollars! The incentive is paramount. The money that is being generated by wildlife trafficking is a 7-10 billion dollar industry, which ranks fifth globally behind trafficking in drugs, humans, oil, and counterfeiting. Even worse, the trafficking is dominated by well-organized syndicates that operate as transnational criminal networks and often participate in other illegal activities, including trafficking in narcotics and weapons, and some have links with terrorist networks. Shockingly, besides Asian markets, the United States is in the top ten nations to import ivory. Much of this trade is legal under a confusing set of U.S. regulations that perpetuates black market sales of illegal ivory.

Simply put, pre-ban ivory or “legacy” ivory is still legal to sell, but once the illegal ivory gets into these countries, the ivory is almost impossible to differentiate. Although permits are required for proof of the ivory being legal, they are easy to manipulate and fake. New York is the number one market, with San Francisco being the second biggest market in the U.S.

Elephants are important!
  • Elephants are a keystone species. Elephants play a very important role in their ecosystem, clearing away brush that therefore creates a clearing for other species, making available food sources for those species. They also dig for water, creating pools for other animals to drink from, so without them, other species cannot survive.

  • They are earth’s constant gardeners. Through their “digested leftovers” elephants are seed dispersers, helping to replenish their habitat, and regrow food sources for other species.

  • They are complex beings. Elephants are extremely intelligent, emotional, and complex beings. Living in a matriarchal society, the females are bonded for life. The matriarch has had years of training and information handed down from her mother, and she plays a critical role in the herd’s survival. Often the matriarchs are killed first for their larger tusks, thus creating broken herds, who have a much harder time surviving without her. To prove even more complexity, elephants are self-aware and have also been observed to mourn their dead.
The Solution

Oakland Zoo has always been on the forefront of supporting elephant conservation awareness as well as advocacy for elephants in captivity, promoting natural history and behaviors through proper management. Amboseli Trust for Elephants, led by world-renowned researcher Cynthia Moss, have been one of our partners for eighteen years and through our annual Celebrating Elephants Day and Evening Lecture we have been able to raise over 250,000 dollars over the years. This money goes straight to the project, helping support their research as well as protect the elephants in the park.

We are proud to announce a partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society in their “96 Elephants” campaign. 96 elephants brings together world citizens, partners, thought leaders, and change makers to leverage collective influence to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand. Overall the campaign will focus on securing effective U.S. moratorium laws; bolstering elephant protection with additional funding; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis.

Moratoria and Public Engagement

96 Elephants will:

  • Engage the public through a series of actions including online petitions and letter writing campaigns enhanced through social media to support a U.S. moratorium
  • Work with local stakeholders to develop moratoria in individual states
  • Support efforts by African nations to enact moratoria
  • Spread the word across multiple earned and owned media platforms about demand and consumption of ivory. The campaign educates public audiences about the link between the purchase of ivory products and the elephant poaching crisis, and global moratoria and other policies that protect elephants.

Field Conservation

96 Elephants will:

  • Bolster elephant protection in the wild by increasing support for park guards, intelligence networks, and government operations in the last great protected areas for elephants throughout the Congo Basin and East Africa
  • Fund high-tech tools in the field, ranging from drones and sophisticated remote cameras that track poachers in real-time, to specifically trained sniffer dogs to find smuggled ivory in ports and trading hubs
  • Support other NGO partners and nation leaders. It focuses on stopping the killing through increasing enforcement and improved management at 48 sites across Africa that contain two thirds of the continents elephant population.

News Update

Wildlife Conservation Society will be starting the third year of its “96 Elephants” campaign. Over the last two years, the campaign has been extremely successful. Here are some major landmarks:

  • In June 2014 New York passed a state-wide ban on ivory sales and rhino horn. They became the second state to do so followed by New Jersey.

  • In October 2015, California passes a state-wide ban on ivory sales and rhino horn. This coalition included Oakland Zoo, HSUS, NRDC, CAZA, and WCS.

  • On August 12th the annual ‘World Elephant Day’ is celebrated across the United States in over 200 coalition organizations, mostly zoos! WCS creates action items such as taking elphies, with #jointheherd, #stampede, to spread social media awareness, and also coloring sheets for kids to turn in to their state governor, and most recently to President Obama.

  • In September 2015, over 164,238 public comments were collected by the campaign to ensure that President Obama’s new federal ivory ban regulations are passed. You can read about those regulations here. While federal regulations are extremely important, they don’t go far enough to protect elephants. Since only an expert can identify ivory age and mammoth ivory is still not prohibited by federal regulations, this still creates a shadow for the legal trade. This is why state bans which need to include mammoth ivory are so important!

  • Other state legislation is underway

Oakland Zoo’s Role:
  • Financial support: Stopping the killing of elephants is critical but cannot be done without more financial support from helping spread the word about the campaign, fighting for stronger legislations, and protecting the elephants and guards in the field!

  • Public Awareness: Educating the public is critical in creating the connection between ivory consumption and elephant poaching. Media promotion through live news, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to promote the campaign is crucial in spreading the word about the crisis.

  • Legislation: Oakland Zoo will make every effort to support and promote online petitions and letter writing campaigns. As a coalition member to AB 96, which was passed in October 2015, we will aid in other similar state laws as needed.

How You Can Help:
  • Don’t buy ivory!

  • Go to to read more about the campaign and elephants. There are several toolkits and materials for anyone'’s use!

  • Donate to the campaign.

  • Promote the campaign through your blog and social media channels.

  • Talk to your friends and spread the word about what’s going on.

In the Field N. America

In the Field Africa

In the Field Asia

In the Field L. America

In the Field Global

The Green Zoo

Conservation On-Site

Take Action

Sign the Ivory Petition

The Palm Oil Crisis

Recycle Cell Phones

Sign up for eScrip

Plant for Wildlife

Join the Creek Crew

Don’t Buy Exotic Pets

Ecotours: Travel Opportunities!