For three weeks earlier this year, AWF President R. Michael Wright and Mark R. Stanley Price, director of AWF's African operations, visited South Africa to talk with experts involved in conservation efforts there. One item on their agenda was to meet with representatives of numerous other African countries on the status of the rhinos. What was less expected was their encounter with the rhinos themselves. From Wright's notes:
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON TALKS WITH Patrick Bergin, executive officer of the AWF Community Conservation Service Center in Tanzania and Bettie Loibooki of the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) staff, who along with Alan Kijazi of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, briefed the first lady on African conservation issues during a visit to Serengeti National Park.
Concern about the survival of the African elephant is hardly new. In 77 A.D., Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder pondered its potential extinction. By the European Middle Ages, his prediction seemed to be coming true: Thanks to the demand for ivory, the elephant, which had once flourished up to the Mediterranean coast, became extinct in northern Africa.
One of the most familiar players in the African elephant crisis of the last 20 years is CITES, shorthand for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
The existence of legitimate ivory stockpiles held by African governments represents a growing challenge to the eight-year-old CITES ban on international trade in elephant ivory.