Top Chicago Cultural Organizations Join Fight to Stop African Elephant Slaughter

May 20, 2014

Brookfield and Lincoln Park Zoos, Shedd Aquarium join 96 Elephants Campaign as global ivory smuggling network linked to Chicago

Chicago, Ill.— As recent news reports link Chicago to a global smuggling network for elephant ivory that is financing terrorist organizations and causing the rapid decline of wild African elephants, three of Chicago’s top cultural organizations today announced their participation in a national campaign to stem the demand for ivory, close state and federal loopholes that allow for ivory sales and transactions in the United States, and raise consumer awareness about elephant ivory.

The Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo, John G. Shedd Aquarium, and Lincoln Park Zoo have joined the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society as partners along with more than 100 other accredited zoos and aquariums in the recently launched 96 Elephants Campaign, an effort focused on securing a U.S. moratorium on illegal ivory, bolstering protection of African elephants, and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis.

“There is an urgent need to stop the sale and trade of ivory in the United States,” said Stuart Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. “Elephants are being brutally slaughtered in Africa to satisfy consumer demand for elephant ivory, which is causing the rapid population decline of the world’s largest land mammal and financing terrorist organizations.”

Throughout Africa, elephant numbers have plummeted by 76 percent since 1980 due largely to the demand of elephant ivory with an estimated 35,000—or 96 per day—slaughtered by poachers in 2012 alone. Researchers believe that Africa’s savannah elephants and their smaller forest cousins may be extinct within two decades.

The U.S. is the world’s second largest importer of ivory. Much of this trade is currently legal under a confusing set of U.S. regulations that perpetuates black market sales of illegal ivory. A moratorium on ivory sales within the United States is one clear and simple rule that will help elephants and reduce what is a significant funding source for international crime syndicates and terrorist organizations.

To help bring initial awareness at the county level, Strahl will appear before the Board of Commissioners of the Forest Preserves of Cook County at its Tuesday, May 20, regular monthly meeting to announce the partnership among the cultural organizations and action that is needed to stem the decline for elephant ivory.

Additionally, during the Chicago City Council meeting on Wednesday, May 28, a resolution for the Campaign will be introduced on behalf of Aldermen Michele Smith (43rd ward), Robert Fioretti (2nd ward), and William Burns (4th ward). And finally, on a state level, the three organizations will be using the summer and fall months to engage members of the Illinois General Assembly about the urgent need for a state-wide moratoria banning the import and/or sale of ivory in Illinois and to educate state lawmakers about the involvement of terrorist organizations in the ivory trade.

All three institutions are encouraging the public to learn more about the plight of elephants in the wild and to support the 96 Elephants Campaign by taking the pledge at www.96elephants.org.

“By joining together and taking action now, we can save elephants by reducing the demand for poached ivory and shutting down the trade, thus doing our part to save wild African elephants from extinction,” added Strahl.

About the 96 Elephants Campaign

  • Bolsters 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. (Wildlife Conservation Society recently launched elephant protection programs in four new target sites: Ivindo National Park in Gabon; Okapi Faunal Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Ruaha and Katavi National Parks in Tanzania; and Niassa National Reserve in Mozambique. In these four sites alone, 44,000 elephants are at immediate risk.)
  • Directly engages the elephant poaching crisis with high-tech tools ranging from drones and sophisticated remote cameras that track poachers in real-time, to specially trained sniffer dogs to find smuggled ivory in ports and trading hubs.
  • 96 Elephants dovetails with the Clinton Global Initiative’s “Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants,” which includes other NGO partners and nation leaders. Leaders from seven African nations are calling for other countries to adopt trade moratoria on all commercial ivory imports, exports and domestic sales of ivory products until African elephant populations are no longer threatened by poaching. The partnership focuses on stopping the killing through increases in enforcement and improved management at 48 sites across Africa where two-thirds of the continents’ elephant population resides.

About the Chicago Zoological Society
The Chicago Zoological Society inspires conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. It is known throughout the world for Brookfield Zoo's innovative, naturalistic, multispecies exhibits and for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. For further information, visit www.CZS.org.

About John G. Shedd Aquarium
The John G. Shedd Aquarium, a nonprofit organization dedicated to public education and conservation, is among one of the world’s largest indoor aquariums. The facility houses over 32,000 aquatic animals representing some 1,500 species of fishes, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, birds and mammals from waters around the world. Beautifully situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, Shedd Aquarium is known as “The World’s Aquarium.” Since its opening in 1930, the aquarium’s mission has been to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the aquatic world. Shedd Aquarium is committed to a number of projects designed to preserve threatened or endangered aquatic species.

About Lincoln Park Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo, a historic Chicago landmark founded in 1868, is dedicated to connecting people with nature by providing a free, family-oriented wildlife experience. A leader in conservation science both globally and locally, the zoo exemplifies the highest quality animal care and educational outreach. The not-for-profit zoo, managed by The Lincoln Park Zoological Society, is a member-supported organization and one of the nation’s only free, privately managed zoos. For more information, call 312 -742-2000 or visit www.lpzoo.org.

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