Embers of hope


Resson Kantai Duff, Projects officer

Date Published

Elephant Conservation Tour in China – June 8 – Guangzhou

A flurry of activity has followed my arrival to Guangzhou; walks in the park watching retired people perform Chinese traditional theatre arts; eating street food on busy, hazy alleyways under the spindly aerial roots of the rong shu tree… to sampling dim sum in the old oriental district.

I soak it all in as I prepare for why I came. I came to be part of the dialogue on the ivory trade and elephant conservation. And what better place to start than the Wi-gather centre, a place where ideas are hatched, with the youthful positive energy of Nairobi’s iHub? It all began with group conversation on Wechat, getting logistics and venue sorted out in a matter of minutes, fuelled by young Chinese who want to be part of the conversation, the solution. The energy of the crowd is palpable as the numbers slowly swell to about three dozen, everyone here for different reasons, but all hear for the same purpose.

Chris, Gao and I give our first presentations, which I feel complimented each other well. While I gave a view of what researching a keystone species is like, and appealed to the heart-rending pain of losing the heads of families, important ecological data and national pride, Chris gave a cogent plea, focussing on the economic losses and security concerns created in Kenya through elephant poaching and ivory trafficking. Gao came in last, bringing our story home by speaking frankly about his in-depth research on ivory markets in China, raising potent points about why everyone should be involved in teasing apart the issue. Each presentation brought closer the grim realities of this complex problem; equally, each gave glimmers and embers of hope. Our joint solution: We must work together to solve the problem, as individuals and as countries.

In the wee hours of the dawning week, we are strategizing on our next steps. I am both egged on and daunted by the sheer number of Chinese youth who want to experience elephant conservation as I do every day – I’m hoping more organizations open their doors to receive them and help set ablaze these embers of hope.