On Saturday, October 4th, tens of thousands of participants in over 100 countries across six continents gathered to march on behalf of wildlife worldwide in an effort to raise awareness about the toll that poaching and other forms of killing are taking on many of the world’s iconic animal species. In Seattle, approximately 200 marchers descended on the city’s International Children’s Park as part of the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. Hosted by Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, the pre-march celebration included music and dancing by Aguacero, and featured speeches by actor Tom Skerritt, local activist Lisa Kane, and University of Washington professor Samuel Wasser, among others.
Kane and Wasser’s speeches were particularly moving in highlighting the devastating effect poaching is having on elephants and rhinoceroses, and why these animals are extremely important as keystone species. Rhino horn and ivory is “a huge trade,” Wasser said to the crowd. “It’s now the fourth largest transnational organized crime.” Of the 51,000 kilos of illegal ivory seized last year, Wasser believes it only represents ten percent of what was actually smuggled. Wasser also pointed out that the United States is the second largest importer of ivory worldwide next to China, where it’s seen as a status symbol.
University of Washington Professor Samuel Wasser speaks at Seattle’s Global March for Elephants and Rhinos
There are believed to be less than 500,000 elephants left in the wild on the African continent, with an estimated 35,000-plus poached annually for their ivory. Rhino horn is believed to be a cure-all in some Asian countries for any number of ailments, but in actuality has no proven medicinal worth as the horn is nothing more than keratin (the same material hair and fingernails consist of). There are fewer than 30,000 rhinoceroses worldwide, with a dramatic upswing in poaching having occurred over the past six years with 1,004 rhinos killed in 2013 alone for their horns.
After the speeches concluded the crowd, ranging in age from small children to octogenarians, marched through Seattle’s International District, chanting and carrying signs highlighting the crisis and calling for an end to poaching. Along with dramatic declines in other iconic wildlife, the purpose of the global marches was to highlight the very real possibility of these species extinction over the next decade-plus, and to encourage politicians and ordinary people alike to recognize the dire situation and make a proactive effort to put an end to the ivory and rhino horn trade. As conservation group WildAid has so effectively highlighted: When the buying stops, the killing can too.
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September 24th marked Seattle's third annual Global March for Elephants and Rhinos – expanded this year to include Lions in the title. And, let's be honest here, there are plenty of other critically endangered animals also deserving of space on the marquee.
Last weekend people from around the globe gathered to participate in the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, whose purpose is to raise awareness about the dramatic decline of some of the world's most iconic megafauna at the hands of men.