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Written by: Nikki Elliott

Qumquat, one of the best-known elephant matriarchs in Amboseli on the Kenya-Tanzania border, was photographed on 27 October 2012 by Nick Brandt. Just 24 hours later the old female and most of the others in her family were gunned down by poachers for their magnificent ivory tusks.

© Nick Brandt
© Nick Brandt

It is estimated that more than 70% of illegal ivory is destined for China. A symbol of wealth in this country, China has 35 licensed ivory carving factories (some report 37). China’s demand for ivory is insatiable, even baby elephants are no longer spared. In July 2013 over two tonnes of ivory was confiscated in Hong Kong – destined for China mainland, with 1 000 baby elephant tusks in the haul. This month, 1.8 tonnes of ivory was confiscated in a Chinese home in Tanzania.

elephant-trinket-ivory.jpg

A year later as part of the global campaign “Flowers for Them”, activists across the globe approached Chinese embassies and consulates with a request to close their ivory carving factories. Cape Town activists gathered at the Chinese consulate on 27 October 2013 to remember Qumquat and her family, however the Chinese consulate refused to accept our flowers and request to their government on the day of remembrance.

During a lengthy telephonic conversation with Mr Née at the Chinese Consulate on 28 October 2013, he denied that China had any ivory carving factories and said it was illegal in his country. He was rather incredulous that I could even suggest to him that they did and he became increasingly irate regarding the matter.

© Geila Wills
© Geila Wills

I made a pact on that day – a pact that I will stand every weekend, with a small group outside the consulate, until they are prepared to accept our message on behalf of our elephants. We will stand, waiting, every weekend until the consulate general is prepared to come down from his ivory tower (pun intended) to meet with us and accept our request. See more details here.

© Geila Wills
© Geila Wills

Because people tend to forget, we will also remind Capetonians that Sea Point curio shop owner, Mark Goldberg’s shop carried and sold illegal ivory – seized in 2009. We will stand with our banners outside his shop in Sea Point on 23 November 2013 as a reminder, see the details here, and again at the high court on 27 November 2013, when he will exercise his right to appeal his five year jail sentence (7 years with two suspended), see the details here.

Poachers, dealers, and traders are destroying our heritage – they are killing off our elephants. We will call for the maximum sentence for all of them. Our elephants are sentenced to death – they pay the ultimate price – for trinkets! We will spread our message until our governments hear us, and impose penalties that befit the crime – a crime against Africa and all Africans.

Furthermore, we will stand outside the Chinese consulate in Cape Town… until China hears us!

© Geila Wills
© Geila Wills
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