Inside the Belly of the Ivory Trade

I hope you had a chance to see last night’s Battle for the Elephants on PBS.  If you missed it, there are additional showings planned. Also, I’ve got a collection of the teaser vids here, some of which include some amazing footage that didn’t make the final cut, so it’s a nice supplement anyway.  If you haven’t seen the inside of a Chinese ivory carving factory or the inside of Tanzania’s ivory storeroom, you can do it here.  Those two shots alone are first-ever windows into the belly of the ivory trade.

To supplement the Blood Ivory story, we created a Blog at National Geographic called A Voice for Elephants (AVFE).  It is intended to be a place for the world’s best thinkers and doers to have a place to share their work and thoughts.  There are a lot of organizations and websites out there and it’s hard to know where to look for information on the elephant crisis. A goal of  AVFE is to bring new ideas to the fore.  Drop by and use it as a place to begin your search and to see what’s current from experts around the globe.

Secret File on Ivory Collector Priest

Since publication of my story, Blood Ivory: Ivory Worship Catholic Church leaders in Cebu have called me a liar and have suggested I be declared persona non grata for exposing Msgr. Cristobal Garcia’s past and his encouragement of smuggling by those who want ivory religious icons.

Here is the man they defend:

Father Cristobal Garcia: Priest fled to the Philippines and rose in the Church

By Dana Bartholomew, Staff Writer

January 29, 2013

Father Vincent Serpa, pastor of St. Dominic Catholic Church in Eagle Rock, knew he had a problem with Father Cristobal Garcia. He just didn’t know how big.

“A family came to him to report that the associate, Father Cristobal Garcia, was involved in giving cocaine to minors in the parish,” said then-Monsignor Thomas Curry, vicar of clergy for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in a 1988 confidential memo to then-Archbishop Roger M. Mahony, three years after the incident.

“To see if he could find any evidence of this, Father Serpa went into Garcia’s room while he was celebrating Mass and found…Read More

As Court records indicate, Church leaders knew of Garcia’s risk to children from the mid 1980s.  This 1988 LA Times article certainly served notice.

Here are a few more stories worth looking at to get a sense of the coverup in Los Angeles.  The trafficking of ivory and the killing of elephants does not compare in its horror to the harming of children.  If the Church is willing to cover up the former, how reliable are their promises on the latter

The archdiocese’s cover-up, Los Angeles Times


The release of confidential files on 1980s clergy sex abuse in the Los Angeles Archdiocese is the beginning of the end of a long and sordid saga.

January 23, 2013

For years, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles fought to keep secret its confidential files concerning pedophile priests. Hundreds of sex abuse victims hoping for a full accounting of what church leaders knew about the growing scandal and what they did to stop it were rebuffed time and again.

But the cover-up is finally coming to an end. On Monday, a series of memos and letters filed in a civil case confirmed that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and other church leaders plotted to shield pedophile priests rather than turn them over to police and prosecutors.

The documents, which date to 1986 and 1987, show how Mahony and Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, his top advisor on sex abuse cases, discussed strategies to keep priests from coming to the attention of law enforcement….

Los Angeles Archdiocese kept sexual abuse in the shadows, Daily News Los Angeles

Church protected priests accused of child molesting


Thousands of pages of court documents show how the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for decades knowingly shielded more than a dozen priests suspected of child sex abuse.

A Los Angeles News Group special report offers an in-depth look into how and when the church knew about the abuse and chose instead to move accused priests from parish to parish, even allowing the most abusive to move out of the country….


More on Vatican City Ivory Raids

More on the recent raids on Italy’s Ivory shops, from Italian newspaper, La Repubblica:

Per Google translate:

            THE CASE

Blood and ivory near the Vatican is the business of the tusks of elephants

Between the walls that divide the holy city of Rome there is a trade of objects derived from the precious material. The Italian Forestry Corps on Friday seized religious artifacts for 150 thousand euro only in the famous gallery Savelli.


“Blood and Ivory” goes to the Vatican, yes. As he told National Geographic journalist environmental investigations, Bryan Christy, for the walls that divide the Holy City of Rome passes a not insignificant part of the trade of objects derived from the tusks of African elephants. The Italian Forestry Corps, with its operational arm Cites (deals with protected species), last Friday seized religious artifacts for 150 thousand euro in one of the most famous galleries close to the Vatican Walls: the Savelli. Operating since 1898, between St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican has five of external galleries, shops and warehouses for religious objects. In a Cites agents found in elephant ivory pieces also sold 40 000 euro: religious statues hand-carved crosses and rosaries, all in the window from 400 euro. A large part of the material seized, say the investigators, not had documentation certifying that the legal origin (the Washington Agreement and subsequent agreements between individual countries that regulate this delicate trade). The administrator of the Roman gallery, denounced, has assured that the items seized are mostly Continue reading “More on Vatican City Ivory Raids” »