We MUST ban all ivory commerce to save elephants from extinction.


Unequivocally ban all ivory commerce to save elephants from extinction.

Future generations deserve to grow up in a world where elephants thrive. Children learn “E” is for Elephant, not Extinction.

Close to 100 elephants are killed each day for ivory. Africa-based terrorist networks such as The Lord’s Resistance Army, Janjaweed, and Al-Shabaab fund their nefarious activities with profits from the illegal ivory trade.

We applaud your Administration for issuing the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking to protect elephants and other endangered species and firmly support your leadership and unprecedented efforts to combat the illegal ivory trade.

Banning ivory commerce will turn the tide for elephants, enhance African security as well as our national security interests, and ensure a responsible environmental stewardship for future generations.


HOW WE CAN END THE ELEPHANT POACHING CRISIS – Chelsea Clinton and the Clinton Foundation

While elephant poaching has been a serious challenge at different points in time for more than a century, it has recently risen to alarmingly high levels. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the African elephant population has dropped from 1.2 million in 1980 to just 420,000 in 2012. While land use pressures and habitat loss pose serious threats to elephants, it is the illegal killing of elephants for their ivory that could cause them to become extinct within our lifetime. Last year alone, 35,000 African elephants were poached for their tusks, for their ivory.

This is not just an ecological disaster; it is an economic and security threat as well. Tourism, a vital source of income for many of the most-affected African countries, is threatened if wildlife preserves are depopulated. The overall black market for illegal wildlife trade has become the fourth most lucrative criminal activity internationally, after drugs, counterfeit goods, and human trafficking.  Wildlife trafficking yields $19 billion per year, according to The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s recent report. These illicit profits fuel rebel and militia groups, even terrorist organizations. Ivory and other wildlife commodities help finance some of their operations in East Africa, West Africa, and possibly further afield, adding to the already increasing concerns around global security.

The illegal ivory trade is buoyed by rising demand.  China and Thailand’s increasing affluence, as well as the growing middle class elsewhere in Asia, has been a key contributor to the increasing demand for ivory. Not surprisingly, as the demand increases, so too does the price of tusks and ivory and the tragic incentives for elephant poachers.  According to a recent Washington Post article, Savannah elephant tusks sell for up to $1,000 per pound, with forest elephant ivory often fetching an even higher price given its prized pinkish hue. Yet, it’s not just animal poaching or the illegal trade of animal parts that has enveloped within this crisis – poachers are putting park rangers in danger too. In the last decade alone, 1,000 rangers in 35 different countries have been killed.

To help end this crisis, we need a complete systems change and we need to recognize that elephant poaching exists within its own market system – we need to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand by educating end consumers. Last November, as then-Secretary of State, my mother announced the beginning of an effort to further recognize and address international wildlife trafficking, and just last month, President Obama issued an executive order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking, with a $10 million pledge demonstrating the United States’ commitment to addressing the crisis and related organized crime issue by working with foreign governments.

Outside of the U.S., other organizations like the African Wildlife Foundation are creating innovative programs to incentivize and reward local populations in the successful protection of elephant populations.  The 40,000-hectare Sekute Conservation Area is part of the Kazungula Landscape which links Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, and is home to the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. I recently had the opportunity to visit this conservation area and meet with the students and faculty of Lupani, the community trust leadership, as well Patrick Bergin, the CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation.  In Zambia, the African Wildlife Foundation built and continues to support the Lupani Primary School as an incentive for the establishment of a community-protected wildlife area and the protection of valuable wildlife dispersal corridors. They also developed and brokered an innovative deal between the Sekute Community Trust and private sector partners to build the Machenje Fishing Lodge.  In return for meeting specified conservation objectives, the local community owns the fishing lodge, while the private sector partners handle the management.  Hopefully, it is a true win-win-win, for the private sector partners, the community, and the wildlife.

In Tanzania, I visited one of the parks where the Wildlife Conservation Society does research on elephants and works with the Tanzanian government to protect this species. I think it would be impossible to not be overwhelmed by the majesty, the humility and the personalities of the individual elephants and families of elephants roaming across Tarangire National Park. As I observed a three-month old baby elephant playing mischievously and a thirtyish year old mother protecting her children, it became starkly clear how innocent these creatures are, and how necessary it is for us to protect them. The mother cannot protect her young on her own.  I listened as Charles Foley, an elephant conservationist, and James Deutsch, the Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Africa, described the successes they’ve had working with governments and communities at protecting elephants on the ground in twelve high priority landscapes from Nigeria to Mozambique – Tarangire included.  But they also stressed that this success needs to be rolled out to new sites where elephants are being killed, as well as complemented by work to intercept ivory traffickers and to staunch consumer demand for ivory. They know that they also cannot protect elephants on their own.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the international community successfully came together to prevent the extinction of elephants, an effort that led to an international trade ban of ivory, along with funding to create wildlife preserves and anti-poaching efforts – all of which helped the African elephant population recover. Last month, my mother held a meeting with several conservation groups to discuss how we need to do more, and how we can do more to bring governments, organizations, and individuals together to create a coherent plan and reach a real solution.  I’m proud that the Clinton Foundation is beginning to work with African leaders, NGOs and the private sector to build a Clinton Global Initiative commitment to formalize a plan and drive coordinated action. By working together across borders and sectors, we can solve this challenge.

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USA Projects is supporting wildLife Projects through their crowdfunding initiative on their website.  For those of you not familiar with USA Projects, it is a program created by United States Artists (USA), a nonprofit grantmaking and artist advocacy organization that has awarded over $17 million to America’s finest artists in the last six years. USA Projects hosts an online community where artists can post projects for funding and connect with those who love and support artists.

Their goal is to help artists successfully navigate the challenging world of online fundraising for their projects. Their expert team provides educational services, from fundraising 101 to case studies and best practices to project development and outreach support. A total of 75% of all artists who have turned to USA Projects have succeeded in funding their projects. USA Projects offers a patent-pending matching fund program, the only one of its kind, which encourages and leverages contributions to help artists succeed faster. All donations are tax deductible because they simultaneously support artists’ projects and the nonprofit mission of United States Artists: to invest in America’s finest artists and to illuminate the value of artists to society.

I hope to be a part of that 75%, but will need your help in doing so!  Please go to my project website by clicking this LINK.

I would be so grateful for your help and support in helping to bring this project to fruition!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me!

The Introduction to the wildLIFE Project

The wildLIFE Project is a body of work that serves to illustrate and project to its viewers the plight of elephants and rhinoceros.  These animals are being killed off in alarming numbers for their ivory and their horns, only to serve the vain needs of humans.  This work is to be exhibited alongside an interpretive exhibition that will show graphs, maps, photos and videos that serves to educate the viewer further, with the intent of educating them about the vulnerability of these animals.  This project will also bring awareness to the problem of wild animal poaching and the need for wildlife protection.

The wildLIFE Project has been percolating for the past few years, but my passion for animals and particularly wildlife, goes back to childhood.  In 2004, my first piece about the demise of wild animals was completed after a visit to Tasmania, Australia.  Having read about the extinction of animals as a child, I wanted to build a shrine to the Tasmanian Tiger.   This issue is now emerging as a priority as I read about the thousands of elephants and rhinoceros being poached monthly and I can no longer only shed tears.

In recent years my work has taken a narrative direction, integrating images and text into shrine-like cabinet forms.   An earlier work, Executive Order 9066, addressed the forced evacuation of Japanese Americans during World War II.   The resulting exhibition was accompanied by a mini interpretive museum (inspired by regional museums one finds scattered across the US)  showing facts, statistics, maps, archival objects and photos.   This project was successful in that it became a community project, not only drawing artists and art lovers but also the broader communities, (Asian Americans, American history high school students).  The project served to educate many Americans that knew very little about this unfortunate piece of history.  Moving forward, this will be my template for the wildLIFE Project, where the ultimate goal remains the same asExecutive Order 9066:  that is to inform, as well as engage the viewers emotionally.  It will also  draw more advocates to this important cause.

My wildLIFE Project will similarly rely on photos, text, maps, and charts.  These details are critical to enhance the emotional weight of the theme.  It will be necessary to provide graphic images in order to heighten the viewers’ consciousness about the fact that these animals are fast approaching extinction.  The work will take on some characteristics of thebutsudan (The butsudan is a Buddhist shrine that is kept in the home to honor deceased family members) as a means of mourning the loss of so many animals.  As a furniture maker,  I want to build a series of these shrines – I have experimented with the cabinet form for many years now, and have found this form to be extremely effective in providing a housing for a diorama, or a miniature stage set.  I have confidence in working this way and am excited about the new subject matter that I will incorporate into these pieces.  Some will house images that will depict these animals, both alive, and (tragically) dead.

I will draw on the notion of how these animals come into our childhoods, and how in reality, these majestic animals belong not in circuses or zoos, but in LIFE, they belong in the wild.    I have a glimmer of hope that perhaps these animals can be saved – consequently not all the works will be foreboding.  I hope to instill a sense of nostalgia related to my own childhood memories of animals and what they meant to me. This work will have a sense of wonder and fantasy of the existence of the animals’ magnificence.   In addition to images I will continue using video in one or two of the works, much in the same manner as my other projects.  I have found that video provides a layer of information that is less static and more emotive than photos.

I plan to also experiment with the application of these images onto glass, which will add depth to my cabinet forms when they are open.  I will be an artist in residence at Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, WA in May 2013 and will be working with both cold and hot glass for this body of work.  I am particularly excited about the prospects of transferring images onto flat glass sheets and using these in my work.

My supporters of the wildLIFE Project will receive a regular update from me through the blog that I will create.  This blog will provide not only updates about my progress through photos and video, but also any information and links that may be relevant to my topic of wildlife preservation.