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What you can do to help elephants and rhinos

Photo credit: Black rhinocerous and African elephant, Africa (c)

Poaching of elephants and rhinos is a huge issue in the conservation world. Studies estimate than one elephant is killed every 15 minutes and that we lose a rhino every 9 to 11 hours. If the huge demand for rhino horn and elephant ivory continues, these magnificent creatures could easily be gone within our lifetimes.

Now, most of us are not the purchasers of elephant tusks or rhino horns, nor are our neighbors (international trade is banned for both products and most of the illegal market for them is in Asia, where beliefs persist that rhino horn can cure cancer, hangovers or other ills and ivory is a coveted luxury good) so it's easy to think: what can I do about this issue? Poaching may not be happening in our backyards nor goods being sold next door but there are still many steps you can take to help protect rhinos and elephants.

Here's a great list from Mother Nature Network which gives some great practical and concrete tips on how to support rhinos and elephants in your everyday life.

1. Obviously, don’t buy ivory

Or sell it, or wear it. New ivory is strictly banned, but antique ivory can be legally available for purchase. (The regulations are complicated; this is a good overview.) Ivory has traditionally been used for jewelry, billiard balls, pool cues, dominos, fans, piano keys and carved trinkets. Shunning antique ivory is a clear message to dealers that the material is not welcomed, and it's an easy way to show your solidarity with the elephants.

2. Buy elephant-friendly coffee and wood

Coffee and timber crops are often grown in plantations that destroy elephant habitats. Make sure to buy Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified timber and certified fair trade coffee.

3. Support conservation efforts

If only we could all be Jane Goodall or Dian Fossey, and move to the jungle or plains and thoroughly dedicate our lives to wildlife. Alas, for most of us that’s the stuff of daydreams. In the meantime, we can support the organizations that are actively committed to elephant preservation. There are many, but here are a few:

International Elephant Foundation

Elephant Care International

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

African Wildlife Foundation

Amboseli Elephant Research Project

4. Be aware of the plight of captive elephants

Historically, zoos and circuses have offered elephants a life of, basically, indentured servitude. Fortunately, the zoo industry is starting to wake up and is beginning to develop more elephant-friendly environments, yet they have a long way to go. Circuses, even further. Make a difference by boycotting circuses that use animals, and by boycotting zoos that offer insufficient space to allow elephants to live in social groups, and where the management style doesn’t allow them to be in control of their own lives. See ElephantVoices for more information.

You can also support the Elephant Trails campaign of the National Zoo to improve the welfare of both wild and captive elephants.

5. Adopt an elephant or rhino

Who wouldn’t want to take home a cute elephant, protect it from the bad guys, and raise it as their own? OK, so that’s not quite realistic, but there are any number of organizations that offer elephant adoptions so that you get cute pictures of “your” elephant, and they get currency to fund their elephant conservation efforts. World Wildlife Foundation, World Animal Foundation, Born Free, Defenders of Wildlife and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust all have adoption programs and are good places to start looking for that special pachyderm.

6. Get involved with Roots & Shoots

Founded in 1991 by Dr. Jane Goodall and a group of Tanzanian students, Roots & Shoots is a youth program created to incite positive change. There are hundreds of thousands of kids in more than 120 countries in the Roots & Shoots network, all working to create a better world. It’s a great way to get youth involved in conservation and pursue careers to help elephants and other wildlife.

Lastly, don't forget to show your support and come out to the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos this Saturday, October 4th happening in cities worldwide! More information here

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