Getty Images Reportage has just released this amazing new video telling the elephant ivory trafficking story as encountered by photographer Brent Stirton and me during our National Geographic investigation of the ivory trade.
Here for the first time you can see just how deeply religion and ivory are bound together. For me, the discovery of religion as a driver of the international ivory trade was shocking. Religious followers in key countries are fueling the killing of elephants and the humans who protect them. This story is also shocking because it implicitly exposes just how poor law enforcement has been when it comes to the international ivory trade, among the world’s best policed categories of illegal wildlife trade. The illegal ivory trade is a multi-billion dollar industry, and not one true international kingpin has ever been identified. Not one, not ever.
Religion is a consumer kingpin but its criminal leaders remain faceless, as do the leaders in China and Africa who run the broader illegal ivory trade. Exposing religion as one common driver opens a hopeful possibility that change can happen, but it will take leadership.