National Geographic News
A photo of an African Elephant.

An elephant bull heads for a watering hole in Tsavo National Park in Kenya. An estimated 35,000 elephants were killed last year.


Christine Dell'Amore

National Geographic

Published February 24, 2014

The ivory trade is an "ecological and moral disaster" that requires businesses and consumers to take up the fight, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton argued in a joint op-ed published February 23 in the Financial Times.

Hillary, the former U.S. secretary of state, has been a vocal opponent of the black market trade in wildlife parts, calling for a global strategy to protect wildlife in their environments and dry up demand for trafficked wildlife goods. (Related: "Blood Ivory" in National Geographic magazine.)

"An estimated 35,000 elephants and more than 1,000 rhinos were killed last year alone. At this rate we are on a path towards the extinction of both elephants and rhinos on the African continent," the Clintons wrote. Chelsea is the vice-chair of the Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit that tackles various global challenges.

"We strongly endorse a complete ban on ivory sales in the U.S. The global ban agreed [to] in 1989 was successful in stemming a previous killing spree. Over time, however, exceptions have eviscerated the international ban and illegal ivory is now routinely bought and sold under one or more loopholes, providing cover for illegal traffickers. These need to be closed and sanctions imposed on countries that continue to trade in ivory products."

The Clintons also noted they are proud of the Obama Administration's recent restrictions on the ivory trade, which are designed to create "a near complete ban" on the commercial sale of African elephant ivory.

A photo of ivory tusks burning.
Chadian President Idriss Déby lights a pyre used to incinerate over a thousand kilos of elephant tusks on February 21, 2014.

That federal action complements growing momentum among states such as New York, which are now contemplating their own ivory bans. Many countries, including, most recently, Chad, on February 21, have also begun destroying their ivory stocks.

Among key provisions, the new ivory rules ban the commercial import of African elephant ivory, meaning that it will now be illegal to import antique ivory commercially. (Related: "Hong Kong Announces World's Biggest Ivory Burn.")

"Ultimately, saving Africa's elephants depends on consumers everywhere," the Clintons assert.

For instance, "retailers need to stop selling ivory products. And businesses need to blow the whistle on government officials and institutions that have been corrupted by this lucrative, illegal trade." (Read more in National Geographic's A Voice for Elephants blog.)

"And as consumers, we should urge companies to help law enforcement authorities disrupt the transfer of tusks, rhino horn and wildlife products on ships, aircraft and trucks. Financial institutions should help to trace illegal transactions, freeze assets and impound ill-gotten gains from illegal trafficking."

There are small things people can do to help: The U.S. Postal Service is selling Save Vanishing Species stamps, which have raised over two and a half million dollars for species conservation.

"Only by working together can we beat this crisis, break the nexus between trafficking and terrorism, and make sure these incredible creatures will roam the earth for generations to come," the Clintons wrote.

Follow Christine Dell'Amore on Twitter and Google+.

Lori Denham
Lori Denham

Fighting for a complete ivory ban is the one accomplishment of Clintons.  I pray for their success in joining the rest of us.  TROPHY HUNTERS KILL TROPHY ANIMALS.  That is not conservation.

Louise Dickinson
Louise Dickinson

Who massacred all the African animals EXTINCTION?

One is a BAD !!!! Black Poor Poacher..for Eastern trinkets ........ the other a MEDIA INVISIBLE !!! Rich White American Trophy Hunter backed by American Corporations, in the name of 'Conservation'  for American TV Hunting Channels and for the wealthy Americans  to have stuffed animals ornaments on stands ................................ Same Outcome.........SAME ANIMALS HERDS

Chudamani Akavaram
Chudamani Akavaram

It is , I think , not the distruction of ivory but protection of Elephants which is the commonsinsical solution to the problem .To achieve this goal people are to be educated as well as strictest punishment is given to the offenders.

Derek Lucas
Derek Lucas

I totally agree banding the sale of ivory will limit the  killing these majestic animals.They also need to legislate very strict punishment to these poachers for the insidious killing of these animals, make it  life incarceration so they will never see daylight ever again. 

Andrew Booth
Andrew Booth

The main market for ivory is the Far East, especially countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and China. There are hundreds of ivory factories there producing ivory ornaments of every description and the demand grows as the personal wealth of individuals there increases. 

Rather than preaching to the converted in the West why don't the Clintons take themselves off to China and other Asian nations and address the importers and customers there?

Mike Kulpa
Mike Kulpa

 Give it away so it has no value. Destroying it does no good, it only increases it's value. 

Lisa Sloan
Lisa Sloan

@Mike Kulpa  I agree..banning the sale of ivory is just going to make it a more sought after commodity...more expensive and it will be prized even more..thus doing the opposite of what they are trying to accomplish.

Summer Dawn
Summer Dawn

@Lisa Sloan @Mike Kulpa  so we should encourage it is what your saying? what we really need to do, is push governments to punish harder for the sale of ivory and better regulate the land the hunters are hunting these animals. there needs to be more people on the ground making a difference not just from an office.


Popular Stories

The Future of Food

  • Why Food Matters

    Why Food Matters

    How do we feed nine billion people by 2050, and how do we do so sustainably?

  • Download: Free iPad App

    Download: Free iPad App

    We've made our magazine's best stories about the future of food available in a free iPad app.

See more food news, photos, and videos »