As tens of thousands of African elephants and a record number of Africa’s rhinos are killed by poachers each year, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has established a US$10 million Urgent Response Fund to stop the killing of Africa’s wildlife, stop the trafficking of wildlife parts abroad and stop the demand for ivory and rhino horn products in Asia.
“To stop this crisis once and for all, we must inject resources quickly and deftly into efforts that stop poachers and traffickers in their tracks,” says Dr. Patrick Bergin, African Wildlife Foundation CEO and a member of the White House Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking established by President Obama. “This Fund supports very targeted projects that are protecting priority populations of elephants, rhinos and other wildlife.”
The Fund commits US$10 million over three years—the same amount pledged initially by the United States and China, two of the world’s largest economies—and will fund efforts to tackle different parts of the illegal wildlife trade supply chain, from stopping poachers and traffickers to raising awareness in Asia in an effort to drive down demand for wildlife products such as ivory and rhino horn.
“While the funds committed by governments to tackle the illegal wildlife trade are, in some cases, being held up by red tape and bureaucracy, our emergency funding faces no such obstacles,” says Bergin. “Equipment, training and resources are already being utilized on the ground.”
The Fund has already begun supporting a number of critical operations, including:
- Stopping the killing. AWF is supporting anti-poaching operations in a number of landscapes across sub-Saharan Africa, with elephant poaching declining significantly in areas where we have funded aerial and foot patrols. More recently, AWF helped to underwrite the purchase of a helicopter to patrol a private reserve near Kruger National Park—ground zero for rhino poaching.
- Stopping the trafficking. After investing in a pilot project to enhance Kenya Wildlife Service’s Canine Detection Unit, AWF has signed an MOU with a canine training specialist group in Tanzania to place sniffer dogs and dog handlers at key seaports and airports in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo. Magisterial training will also be provided in those locations to ensure swift justice for convicted traffickers.
- Stopping the demand. AWF has partnered with WildAid and others to produce celebrity-studded Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for the Asian market, including PSAs starring former NBA star Yao Ming, actor Jackie Chan, Sir Richard Branson and Vietnamese-American actor Johnny Nguyen. In 2013, the “Say No to Ivory” PSAs aired 7,697 times across 22 network channels, as well as on video screens in Beijing and Shanghai up to 42 times per day in some locations. Please visit AWF's YoutTube channel to view all of our "Say No" PSAs.
In the 1970s, Africa was home to more than 1.3 million elephants. Today, as few as 419,000 may remain. As many as 35,000 elephants are killed by poachers each year to feed the ivory black market. The South African government recently reported a record 1,020 rhinos have been poached in the country since the beginning of 2014, surpassing the 1,004 rhinos killed in all of 2013.
“Conservation is both a short and long game,” says Bergin. “We have been working for years to secure large, intact spaces for wildlife so it will survive and thrive in a fully modernized and economically vibrant Africa, but if we don’t address these urgent threats to elephants, rhinos and other wildlife, now there won’t be any wildlife left to fill those spaces.”
To help fund the fight, please visit www.awf.org/donate.