Thomson Safaris staffer, Katie Ann Havas marched to raise awareness of the illegal ivory trade at the International March for Elephants in New York City. She shares her experiences of the very meaningful day below.
On October 4, four of my colleagues from Thomson Safaris and I walked in the greatest demonstration in support of a wild animal to date: the International March for Elephants. Fifteen cities across the globe hosted marches in hopes of bringing attention to the problem of poaching, and to bring about stricter laws in countries where ivory trafficking occurs. We were fortunate to be at the march in New York City while our Tanzanian colleagues were able to participate in the event in Arusha, Tanzania.
As we filed down 42nd Street in our peaceful, cohesive group of hundreds we chanted, “Say No to Ivory” and “Stop Elephant Poaching.” As someone who signs online petitions in support of conservation nearly every single day, and works for a company that offers photographic safaris, I felt very connected to the cause. It was wonderful to see so many people with their anti-ivory messages come out in support of the largest land mammals left.
The NYPD sheltered the two mile march route through midtown, and kept our troop moving. Unencumbered, we passed through Times Square, surrounded by interested onlookers who stopped to read our signs and take pictures as we marched to the United Nations at Hammarskjold Plaza. The plaza was the perfect setting for speeches by actress Kristin Davis, Nat Geo author Bryan Christy, CEO of WildlifeDirect Paula Kahumbu, Deputy of the Kenyan Wildlife Service Dr. Patrick Omondi, and conservation photographer Cyril Christo. There was also a performance by MbiraNYC featuring traditional music of Zimbabwe. All of the people involved in the march were truly inspiring, as we all shared a common interest in spreading the word about the elephant crisis. The speakers in particular did an amazing job of sharing their personal stories and touched the crowd with their genuine love of tembos (that’s Swahili for elephants).
One of my favorite speakers was National Geographic investigative author, Bryan Christy, who spoke poignantly about how National Geographic does their best to show the faces of the criminals who take part in wildlife trafficking and other black market activities that fund terrorist organizations. Bryan wrote “Blood Ivory,” the October 2012 cover story, and he works hard to uncover what is actually happening in places where ivory is in demand. People like him are enlightening nations that want elephant tusks as superfluous trinkets, jewelry, and ash trays. These items are certainly not worth the death of a beautiful elephant and the more people who know it, the better.
(left) CEO of WildlifeDirect, Paula Kahumbu
(right) Actress Kristin Davis
The final speaker was actress Kristin Davis, whose enthusiasm for elephants began in 2008 when she and her Maasai friends found a baby elephant in the wild whose parents had been killed by poachers. Kristin encouraged us all to adopt an elephant in need, just like the one she found—something that can cost as little as $50 per year.
After this event, there is no doubt in my mind that more attention needs to be given to our majestic friends the elephant and the rhino, and that the iWorry campaign is doing a great job spreading the word and educating the uninformed. According to Daphne Sheldrick, founder of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, “Current estimates put the figure at 36,000 elephants killed annually, which equates to one elephant dying every 15 minutes.” If this trend continues, elephants will be extinct by the year 2025. I never thought elephants would join the ranks of dinosaurs in my lifetime and I will stand up and fight to make sure that doesn’t happen. I don’t want to tell my nephew, Eli, whose favorite animal happens to be the elephant, that we couldn’t save them. Please join the battle for elephants by lending your voice to the cause (Say NO to Ivory!), urging your representatives to fund anti-poaching initiatives, demanding more protection for elephants in countries where they live, and by wearing red, white, and black in the next International March for Elephants.
See more photos of the marches in New York City and Arusha, Tanzania
on the Thomson Safaris Google + page