NEW YORK (November 30, 2015) – The following statement is from WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper on Pope Francis speaking out against the ivory trade on his visit to Kenya.
“WCS is extremely grateful to Pope Francis for speaking out so powerfully against the illegal wildlife trade – specifically the illegal trade of ivory – that is wiping out Africa’s elephants, while negatively impacting Africa’s poor by organized crime and terrorism.
“As His Holiness noted in his remarks: ‘We cannot be silent about forms of illegal trafficking which arise in situations of poverty and in turn lead to greater poverty and exclusion.’ The millions of dollars brought in by the slaughter and trafficking of wildlife harms the poor and vulnerable, and helps finance trade in illegal drugs and arms; in turn, it fuels political instability, organized crime, and terrorism. Africa’s elephants are being slaughtered for their ivory at a rate of 96 each day. Prospective profits from ivory sales have reportedly attracted groups like the Janjaweed and the Lord’s Resistance Army. By following the money trail it has become increasingly clear that ivory trafficking directly contributes to and funds atrocities against civilians, while undermining the security, livelihoods and well being of local peoples.
“We commend Pope Francis for courageously reminding humanity that it has a responsibility to be the stewards of our planet. We believe his leadership can truly have an impact on the future of so many species, by stimulating action by governments, their leaders, and citizens around the world. In the spirit of St Francis of Assisi, and his beautiful articulation of the inseparable bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace, WCS urges Pope Francis to continue to use his voice to encourage the world to work together to stop the poaching and trafficking in wildlife.”
WCS is leading global efforts to save Africa’s elephants and end the current poaching and ivory trafficking crisis. In 2013, WCS launched its 96 Elephants campaign to bring together world citizens, partners, thought leaders, and change makers to leverage collective influence to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand. The campaign, which has partners from around the world including 125 U.S. zoos, focuses on: securing effective moratoria on sales of ivory; bolstering elephant protection; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis. www.96elephants.org