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June 06, 2013

Blood Ivory

Tomorrow and Saturday, President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping will meet in California. While the two have a laundry list of issues on their agenda, I truly hope they'll find time to discuss how the two countries might work together to address the growing security crisis in Africa, where in recent months, 82 or so elephants have been slaughtered by poachers for their ivory tusks every single day.

Recently, the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reported to the U.N. Security Council that elephant poaching was a growing security concern, particularly in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, and Gabon, and that the illegal trade in ivory may be an important source of funding for armed groups, including warlord fugitive Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army.

ELEPHANT_SUCKLE_HER_CALF_76579
Sergey Khachatryan/The HSUS

What does this have to do with the U.S. and China? China is the world’s largest consumer of illegal ivory, and the U.S. is second; both countries have a legal ivory trade that is being used as a cover for trade in illegal ivory from poached elephants. Ivory trinkets sold in both countries are like blood diamonds, the sale of which funds wars that are not only wiping out elephants but are destabilizing governments and posing a security risk to African people and African governments.

Matthew Scully – one of the animal protection movement's most talented writers and thinkers, a former senior speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and author of “Dominion” – has advanced a remarkable written appeal to President Obama to put this international wildlife protection and international security issue on his to-do list with the Chinese leader. He's done so in the form of 12,000 word essay on the web site of The Atlantic.

If you can, take the time to read it and see how Scully argues that the welfare of elephants is as closely intertwined as it can be to the political and economic health of so many countries in Africa.

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