Ahead of World Elephant Day (August 12) and an upcoming meeting on international wildlife trade in Geneva, Switzerland, Ricky Gervais has teamed up with Animal Defenders International (ADI) to call for elephant protections to be strengthened, not weakened.

Award-winning comedian and actor Ricky Gervais said: “I cannot imagine what Africa would be like without its elephants, but this could become a reality if those with the power to help fail to act. If you’re as sickened by scenes of these incredible animals being torn from their families or hacked to pieces then speak out, before it’s too late.”

African elephant populations have fallen by more than 50% in the last 40 years, with poaching, habitat loss, and human conflict decimating numbers. Fewer than 350,000 savannah elephants and 100,000 forest elephants remain.

Two proposals to be considered at the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) meeting, which takes place August 17-28, seek to increase protections of this gentle giant, but two further proposals would weaken them.

In Proposal 10, Zambia aims to downgrade the status of its country’s small population of elephants to Appendix II, despite there being little to no increase in their numbers since being placed on Appendix I.

Proposed by Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, Proposal 11 would permit international commercial trade in both elephant body parts (including ivory) and live animals from the proposers’ countries and South Africa.

Seeking to give ALL African elephants the highest level of protection and put forward by 10 African nations, Proposal 12 calls for populations in the above four countries to be uplisted from Appendix II to Appendix I, to be considered as one population across Africa. This reflects the highly migratory nature of the species – three-quarters of African elephants live in populations that cross country borders.

Proposal 13 from Israel aims to prevent the “laundering” or mislabeling of elephant ivory as mammoth ivory. Russia is a major legal exporter of tusks of this long extinct species, with imports into Hong Kong rising nearly fourfold since 2000. Such legal markets are known to provide a cover for illegal trade of elephant ivory.

Jan Creamer, President of Animal Defenders International, said: “The fate of elephants in Africa is in the hands of those who do not see the families ripped apart, and the emptiness that the loss of these gentle giants leaves behind. The suffering and slaughter still happens, and governments worldwide must step up and stop the trade in elephant babies and body parts before the clock runs out.”

ADI, a member of the Species Survival Network of over 100 organizations worldwide, is active on a number of CITES proposals to protect other threatened species including lions, rhinos, giraffes, jaguars, and great apes.

Wildlife is under threat now more than at any other time in human history. Since 1970, global animal populations have declined by 60% due to human activity including poaching, illegal trading, and trophy hunting. More than 27,000 species – a quarter of all mammals – are now threatened with extinction. Inevitably, this global planetary change will affect ecosystems and the human population.

The first CITES treaty was signed 1975, and now has 183 nation signatories; CITES regulates international trade in wildlife and plants. At the Conference of Parties (CoP) held every three years, representatives of CITES member countries debate and vote on proposals to increase or reduce species protections.

ADI supports the efforts of organizations in Zimbabwe to stop the export of young wild elephants from the country. 35 individuals are known to be currently held in pens in Zimbabwe, destined for Chinese zoos. Since 2012, and with this most recent capture, nearly 150 infants have been torn from their families and the wild.

As a result of this terrible trade, there are hundreds of wild-caught African elephants in zoos and circuses around the world, predominantly in Asia, Europe, and America. Some have spent 30 or more years in captivity. Nosey is one such elephant. Snatched from the wild in Zimbabwe in the 1980s, Nosey spent a lifetime being forced to perform and give rides in America. Confiscated from her owner, Nosey was relocated to a US elephant sanctuary and at last has a happier and more natural life. Most are not so lucky, and at circuses and animal suppliers in Europe, and Latin and North America, ADI has caught systemic abuse of elephants and other wild animals on film, the evidence helping change attitudes and laws.

Find out more and how you can help here.

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