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Wildlife Watch

Worldwide Rallies Spotlight Illegal Ivory and Rhino Horn Trade

High-profile events draw thousands who want to protect wildlife at risk.

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In Amsterdam and more than 130 cities around the world, thousands gathered for the annual Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, calling for an end to the ivory and rhino horn trade.


In America’s capital, the 2015 March for Elephants got off to a late start. Three weeks late, to be exact.

Protesting the fact that some 30,000 elephants are killed every year for their tusks and other parts, people in cities around the world held rallies the weekend of October 3 and 4. In Washington, D.C., impending Hurricane Joaquin forced a delay.

So on October 24, hundreds of people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to draw attention to the crisis facing these animals.

“We have the opportunity to send a clear message: There’s no excuse for the ivory trade,” said Jen Samuel, president of Elephants DC, the nonprofit that organized the Washington march.

More than 130 cities around the world hosted marches, from Nairobi to Dubai to Hong Kong to Buenos Aires. In the U.S., 43 cities participated.

“Worldwide, marches for elephants keep the story of the plight of elephants and those who protect them alive,” said Bryan Christy, Chief Correspondent for National Geographic’s new Special Investigations Unit. “They are an important part of the global effort to tell this story.”

The Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, the parent organization leading the effort, published a declaration of demands, which include a total ban on the ivory trade, the UN making wildlife crime a “serious crime,” and ending the hunting of all elephants, rhinos, lions, and pangolins—anteater-like mammals whose scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine and whose meat is considered a luxury.

The group also wants to make sure that the countries that are party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) do not approve legalizing the rhino horn trade.

At next year’s CITES meeting, South Africa may request that the group consider lifting the ban on the international rhino horn trade, which has been in place since 1977.

After the march in Washington, Elephants DC held a fundraiser at the embassy of Gabon. The nonprofit announced that it is launching its first field project in Gabon's Moukalaba Doudou National Park. It's partnering with the Gabonese nonprofit Protector of the Great Apes of the Moukalaba to work with local communities to protect the park's forest elephants. Gabon is home to about 60 percent of the remaining forest elephants.

“We have to preserve nature as it is. We have to make it so our children, our children’s children, get the best of what nature has blessed us with,” Gabonese Ambassador Michael Moussa-Adamo told National Geographic. “The entire world should feel responsible to protect the environment.”

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by a grant from the BAND Foundation.

Follow Rachael Bale on Twitter.

WATCH: An accused ivory smuggler is arrested in Togo for the largest seizure of illegal ivory in Africa in decades.

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