On December 30, 2016, history was made with the announcement China will shut down the trade of ivory within its borders by the end of 2017. This past September, the Great Elephant Census released the results of a massive two year project. This first-of-its-kind count of elephant populations in 18 African countries showed an alarming decline of 30% since 2007 – largely due to poaching. This data made clear the dire state of the species and humankind’s collective obligation to do everything it can to protect and preserve the African elephant. Data is a powerful tool to drive action. China pursuing an aggressive timeline to close their vast ivory market might be the tipping point that helps save the African elephant from extinction. Great Elephant Census founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen stated,
“I applaud China’s leadership to put a clear end to its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017. I am hopeful that the comprehensive data provided by the Great Elephant Census (GEC), along with actions taken during the recent IUCN and CITES convenings, contributed to China’s decision to accelerate the deadline for the ivory ban.
I believe in the power of valid, holistic data like the GEC to help inform timely decisions. With a growing number of species at risk of extinction, we must make timely and smart decisions about how and where we direct limited resources. The GEC not only generated the most accurate and interactive database of Africa’s savanna elephants, it has also sparked collaboration between dozens of countries and groups who don’t usually share information in this area of concern. I am pleased to see the data from this cross-continental effort being applied to decisive actions on a global scale.
In the end we can only judge our success by one measure: can we save elephants and ultimately contribute to their recovery? My hope is that enough countries will unite to save the elephants, as China has done, before it’s too late.”