Save the Elephants assists wildlife departments in their fight against ivory traders and poachers. We protect and monitor elephants with aerial surveillance and radio-tracking and believe that a renewed ivory trade remains the greatest potential threat to elephants.
Protection is a vital pillar supporting the future of the elephant. Our work through education, research and grassroots conservation is gaining momentum and we hope it will eventually eclipse the need for active protection. Until that time arrives all our efforts funnel into the essential work of lobbying governments and CITES to provide legal protection. STE works closely with government and non-governmental organisations, universities and research institutions to ensure the long-term conservation of elephants in Africa. This requires a multifaceted approach and our activities cover research, conservation, community education and training, and public awareness at both a national and international level.
STE's research into elephant movement and populations provides protection as well as invaluable raw data. GPS tracking collars and aerial surveys are essential monitoring tools, showing us the important areas that elephants use most and so focusing our efforts on conserving those areas. Live tracking also allows rangers to guard herds and individuals that enter dangerous environments.
We are involved in surveys to establish population trends, elephant mortality and ivory trade, providing systematic and factual information used by the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) to ascertain the conservation status of the African elephant. In 1997 CITES decided to reopen limited ivory sales between 3 African countries and Japan. STE has helped the Kenya Wildlife Service carry out vital ground and aerial surveys to measure any changes in elephant poaching in key populations due to increased ivory trade. STE believes the greatest threat to elephants is the ivory trade and we strongly support a total ivory trade ban. The charity is recognised by CITES as an international organisation.
STE also recognises the need to find solutions to reconcile elephants with the people with whom they share their land. We are investigating innovative and cost-effective methods to reduce conflict as well as exploring the cultural relationships between people and elephants.
STE has been conducting ground and aerial surveys to monitor elephant populations for forty years. Continental counts made in the 1970s alerted the world to the elephant poaching epidemic and helped secure the 1979 ivory ban. Surveys are still an important tool in elephant conservation today.
Save the Elephants, realizing there was still an active ivory trade in many parts of the world, funded research from 1999 to 2004 for Esmond Martin and Daniel Stiles to study the main ivory markets in Africa, Asia and Europe. As a result, four ivory reports were published in order to provide base-line data from which informed decisions could be made regarding ivory trade controls and law enforcement. The first three reports were entitled: The Ivory Markets of Africa, 2000, 84 pages; The South and South East Asian Ivory Markets, 2002, 88 pages; The Ivory Markets of East Asia, 2003, 112 pages - all published by Save the Elephants. They were each launched at the House of Commons in London, with further press conferences held in Nairobi. There was wide publicity on the findings world wide. The authors also wrote academic articles summarizing their work in Pachyderm and elsewhere, and more popular articles in Swara and BBC Wildlife. The findings in the reports were also disseminated on the BBC. The fourth report, Ivory Markets of Europe, was published in 2005 by Save the Elephants and Care for the Wild International, 104 pages, with a launching at the University of London.
The main conclusions in the first report were that tusks were being smuggled from the DRC, CAR, Cameroon and Gabon, in particular, to Abidjan, Lagos and Dakar, and from the DRC and CAR up to Sudan and Egypt for carving, with a little from Kenya and Sudan going to Addis Ababa. About 110,000 ivory items were counted for sale in 657 outlets in the 15 countries that were visited, with Abidjan displaying the most, followed by Harare and then Cairo. Most buyers are expatriates. The second report revealed that wild elephant populations in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam declined from 1988 to 2000 by about 75% down to 1,510 animals. Most tusks were being smuggled from Myanmar to Thailand where there were over 80% of the 105,000 ivory items counted for sale in the eight countries surveyed (within 521 outlets in 17 towns and cities). Some of the items on display were made from illegal African ivory carved in China and Thailand especially. The third report showed East Asia had over 54,000 items for sale in 413 outlets in 11 cities. Hong Kong had by far the most, then China and Japan. Japan’s industry was mostly legal and for domestic use only, while China had the largest number of carvers and the largest illegal industry, mostly for export all over the world. The fourth report showed that in Europe there were over 27,000 ivory items counted in 1,143 outlets in 14 cities and towns, mostly antiques or objects made before 1989 when the trade was still legal. Germany and the UK had by far the most number of items. France and Germany still have active carvers using old ivory stockpiles, consuming about 300-400 kg per country a year. In all countries, it was found that carvers are giving up their profession as they see no future in their work. But still ivory from Africa does supply the illegal markets.
Between March and December 2006 and March and May 2007, Martin and Stiles made their fifth survey and covered the United States of America and Vancouver, Canada. On 5th May 2008, they officially launched the fifth report, Ivory Markets in the USA, 2008, 120 pages, in Washington DC. The report indicated that the United States is the world's second-largest retail market for elephant ivory products, behind only China, a new study says. Once again this report was published by Save the Elephants and Care for the Wild.
STE has been involved in developing a viable alternative to the sport hunting of elephants. Whilst sport hunting can contribute to the conservation budget, elephant hunting rapidly depletes the number of mature tusked bulls in an area. This significantly affects the dynamics of a population.
Save the Elephants and MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants)
Save the Elephants supports and manages the Samburu-Laikipia MIKE site in Northern Kenya. Our findings are unique and stand out from the MIKE data because we report one of the highest elephant carcass recovery rates in the MIKE database. This is NOT because we have unnaturally high levels of poaching or human-elephant conflict deaths but because we have adapted a new technique using participatory techniques to monitor and record carcases in the area. The data is closer to a natural mortality percent than any other MIKE site in Africa. This unique method will serve as an early warning system for increased levels of poaching in Northern Kenya, as our sampling technique is consistent. We do not believe that the MIKE baseline is complete due to similar numbers of elephant carcasses being found in areas of both low and high elephant populations. This proportional inaccuracy across both the MIKE datasets and within MIKE countries provides a weak baseline for future monitoring. A 20-year moratorium on the Ivory trade would give the MIKE programme a chance to improve and develop its methods so that it becomes a powerful and useful tool to monitor elephant mortality and potential surges in poaching in the future.