The Ivory Game – Black Money, Black Markets, Illegal Arms, and the War on Elephants
“The destiny of elephants is entirely in the hands of one single person, Xi Jinping, the President of China. This is the first time in history that one single person holds the destiny of an entire species.” ~ Investigator, Andrea Crosta
Poaching is decimating Africa’s elephant population. Between 2002 and 2011, the world’s elephant population was reduced by 62 percent fueled by China’s demand for ivory. Between 2010 and 2012, over 100,000 African elephants were brutally and wantonly slaughtered by poaching syndicates and criminal networks—all driven by the demand for ivory in U.S. and China markets. The traders of ivory actually want the extinction of elephants, because it drives up profits for all criminals involved. The only way to win this war the film points out, is to kill the demand, get ivory completely out of circulation, and stop the slaughter of these magnificent but vulnerable animals.
The documentary The Ivory Game underscores the dire and immediate urgency in stopping the massacre of elephants by poachers, by shutting down the domestic ivory markets in every country and banning the trade of all ivory products worldwide—before it’s too late. The film exposes the extreme danger, deadly risks and profound challenges inherent in fighting the war on ivory, as it follows undercover investigators, conservation experts, investigative journalists and security police all over Tanzania, South Africa, and Kenya and halfway around the globe to expose the illegal ivory markets in Hong Kong and Beijing. One investigator in particular, a determined and committed young Chinese activist, risks his life to uncover who the illegal traders are in China. The greatest challenge the film reveals, is that this war on elephants and ivory, is not only illegal, but it is highly secret—it takes place at night, in hidden and remote places, using illegal military weapons, trafficked by illegal traffickers in cargo containers impossible to track, where every part of the illicit chain is secret, including the seller and buyer of ivory.
“This is an international problem, it’s not just African problem. The individuals who are fighting this battle, they cannot win it alone—it’s too big, it’s too complex,” pleads Uhuru Kenyatta, the President of the Republic of Kenya. “Are we really in our generation going to allow the largest mammal on the Earth to disappear? Losing the elephant from Africa is just the slow erosion of humanity. Then what’s next? We’re going to lose the rhino, then the giraffe — then what will we have? Suddenly, we’ll have an empty world full of people, but nothing wild,” warns Ian Craig, Director of Conservation.
We are clearly running out of time to save the elephants. But each of us can help in this war. Learn how you can make a difference below.
Watch the Film on Netflix
Length: 1 Hour/48 Minutes
What You Can Do
- Sign the Petition to Stop the Ivory Trade
- Read and Sign The Elephant Charter
- Don’t buy ivory! Don’t buy, sell or wear anything made from ivory. Most ivory is made into jewelry, fans, carved trinkets, and sculptures. Most illegal ivory comes from recently killed elephants in the last 3-5 years.
- Don’t buy antique ivory! Even though it is old, it supports and fuels the illegal ivory market. When an antique piece is sold, an illegal piece is moved in its place. Shun all ivory, period.
- Don’t buy exotic hardwoods from Asia or Africa – Don’t buy exotic hardwoods or woods harvested from Asia, much of it illegally logged and illegally transported and is highly destructive to elephant habitats. Buy only sustainable wood products that are “FSC-Certified” (Forest Stewardship Council) from FSC-Certified forests or post-consumer waste.
- Don’t buy coffee beans that destroy elephant and wildlife habitat – Coffee plantations in Sumatra and Java, Indonesia sell beans that destroy habitat and clear land illegally, avoid these products. Buy only sustainable, fair-trade, shade-grown coffee – ask the retailer for help to make sure you’re buying this.
- Don’t attend entertainment that uses and abuses elephants – Wild baby elephants are captured and forcibly taken away from their mothers, breaking up devoted family groups and deep historical family linages, then are abused and beaten in months of training to perform for tourists and for entertainment. All through their captive, confined lives they are beaten by a bull-hook to control them.
- Boycott circuses and zoos – Circuses are abusive to elephants every single day of their lives — from capture, to training, to performing, to transporting, to being chained in severe confinement 24/7. Elephants confined in zoos throughout the world experience captivity-related stress, depression, loneliness, anxiety, sadness and psychotic behavior due to lack of stimulation and lack of companionship. All leading to disease, distress, depression, despair and premature death. Zoo handlers abuse elephants with bull hooks, and they are forced to live in deplorable, deprived, unnatural conditions. Boycott zoos, which all support forcible capturing of animals from the wild or breeding animals into lives of captivity.
- Support conservation efforts – Support organizations committed to elephant conservation such as: African Wildlife Foundation, International Elephant Foundation, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Ambosely Elephant Research Project
- Support elephant sanctuaries – Captive elephants in Thailand and Asia after years of use, abuse, and illness are sometimes rescued and retired to sanctuaries like the Elephant Nature Park in Chang Mai, that cares for them the remainder of their natural lives. Here are three reputable elephant sanctuaries in Thailand to donate to and visit.
- Support elephant Reintroduction Programs – There’s a movement to reintroduce elephants who have been captive and worked much of their lives back into the wild and the forest. Support organizations such as Thailand’s Elephant Reintroduction Foundation.
- Adopt an elephant – Support elephant conservation efforts by adopting one through WWF, Born Free, Defenders of Wildlife and World Animal Foundation
- Support Roots & Shoots Youth Program in Africa – Jane Goodall started this great nonprofit to help save elephants and get kids involved in elephant conservation. Now Roots & Shoots is in over 130 countries and there are 150,000 kids participating so far. Join Roots & Shoots
- Teach kids and students about the issue – Here is a Teachers Lesson Plan for Grades 6 – 8
- Inform your friends and family – Inform other people about what is happening to elephants, and how they can help them. Share on social media!
Elephant Threats and Solutions
- Ivory poaching – The biggest contributor to the decimation of elephant populations
- Habitat loss – The clearing of forests for logging, agriculture, coffee, roads and development for humans, along with population growth in river valleys and plains
- Seasonal migration paths destroyed – Elephants’ migration paths are being destroyed by development, coffee and tea plantations, roads, logging, and transit lines
- Capture of young wild elephants for tourism and entertainment industries – Baby elephants are captured from their mothers in the wild, separated and removed from their families, and brutally and inhumanely trained to be used in entertainment, tourism, logging and the tourism trekking business. Often the mothers are killed, and frequently the baby dies prematurely young of heartbreak, injuries, and disease
Source: Save The Elephants (www.savetheelephants.org)
- At least 33,000 elephants are being killed every year for their ivory tusks.
- In just the past seven years, African elephant populations in savannahs have dropped 30 percent, and elephants living in forests have dropped 62 percent from 2002 to 2013.
- Between 1979 and 1989, half of Africa’s elephants were killed and poached for the ivory trade.
- By 2007, elephant populations increased and there were between 470,000 and 690,000 elephants in Africa, due to the CITES international ban on the ivory trade of tusks.
- China’s growing middle class and economic boom in the early millennium fueled and is fueling demand for ivory.
- Between 2002 and 2011, in the new wave of killing, the world’s elephant population was reduced by 62%, fueled by China’s demand for ivory.
- Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 African elephants were killed, driven by Asian demand.
- Between 2010 and 2014, the wholesale price of raw ivory in China tripled to $2,100 per kilo.
Source: Take Part (www.takepart.com)
- 96 elephants are killed every day at the hands of poachers for ivory in Africa, then is smuggled into the U.S. and China.
- There are only about 500,000 elephants left in the world, and one elephant is killed approximately every 15 minutes worldwide
- The U.S. is reportedly the second largest market for ivory and ivory carvings, China is the largest market with the biggest demand.
- In the past 10 years, over 1000 park rangers have been killed, 80 percent of them by commercial poachers and armed militia groups (Globalconservation.org)
Articles on Ways You Can Help
Ending the Ivory Trade
6 Ways to Help Elephants
Stop the Ivory Trade
What You Can Do Now
Join the Fight at TheIvoryGame.com
Poaching Facts, Statistics and Resources
More About the African Elephant
Learn About the African Elephant and How to Advocate For the Elephant
Related News Articles About Elephant Poaching and Arrests
Quotes From the Film
“Tanzania’s elephant population dropped by 60 percent between 2009 and 2014 due to rampant poaching.”
“Over the past 5 years, more than 150,000 elphants have been killed for their ivory.”
“With populations in western and central Africa virtually gone, the mass killing is now spreading to east and southern Africa. Criminal networks smuggle the raw ivory into China, where it is carved into luxury items, fueling a multi-billion dollar trade. If trade continues, the African elephant could become extinct within 15 years.”
“Every elephant is at risk, even females and young elephants. When an elephant is killed, they remember it for their entire lifetime and since elephants are very bonded and family oriented, it breaks up the family.”
“No matter how many guns, no matter how many men we have, we are fighting against an avalanche and there’s no way to stop it.”
“Elephants cannot protect themselves against a concentrated effort to kill them. They cannot fight the guns and weapons. They are dying all over the continent.”
“The reason why there are thousands and thousands of elephants that are slaughtered every year, is because there is a “legal” market in China. The legal market is only a very small market that is limited to 5 tons per year (the ivory is pre-1989), but it’s not enough for the demand in China. So that fuels the illegal market in ivory. You have a legal market for something that is basically illegal all over the world.” (December 2016 China announced it will shut down its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017)
“One single man, one poacher, is responsible for killing more than 10,000 elephants. The poacher only gets about 6% of the profit, and the wholesaler selling the tusks to China gets 94%.”
“It pains me to see these greedy men who just want to get easy money, killing these beautiful animals.”
“It’s so sad to see the end of these beautiful animals is inside these rusted containers at shipping docks in China. Soon to be chopsticks, rings and carvings.”
“In China, ivory is considered a luxury item that some rich poeople see as a status symbol. Many people in China still see animals as something to be used, to them they are only resources. Not like in the West, where most people see animals as the living beings they are.”
“The most difficult part is identifying the enemy. The buyer is secret, the seller is secret, the killer is secret. So everything is secret. Very different from conventional war.”
“Fighting anti-poaching is also saving our country from terrorists. Some of the poachers they go hunting for elephants, sell the ivory, get the money, buy more arms for their illegal war—to finance the war of terror.”
“We’re at a watershed moment with the elephant crisis, helicopters, guns – we can’t win this war. There are simply not enough men to cover the ground. We need a political solution to address this problem.”
“They all represent dead elephants, they should be alive, living and thriving – we need to kill the demand, get it out of circulation, we need to stop the slaughter.”
“To me every single elephant counts, these aren’t just elephants, they are individuals with families and relationships, so killing an elephant is much more than just killing an individual elephant, it’s killing an entire family. When you kill a mother elephant—the dominant leader—you are left with teenagers and young animals having to make decisions without any historical memory in a world that is massively dangerous and threatening.”
“When I think of how long this elephant has walked the Earth—then someone just comes in and guns it down in the period of a few hours, it breaks my heart.”
“They don’t feel pity for the elephants or any other animal they kill. We are in a war zone, each one is trying to win. We need to get down to Shetani (Boniface Matthew Mariango) and his poachers. We’re not going to allow them to win the war.”
Directed by: Richard Kadkani and Kief Davidson
Cinematography by: Richard Kadkani
By Vulcan Productions
The Ivory Game is a Netflix Original Documentary
- PAMS Foundation
- Big Life Foundation
- Eagle Network
- Northern Rangeland Trust
- Wildlife Justice Commission