"I got this necklace in the 60's" my mother said as she dug through her jewelry drawer. "Maybe you can use it? I never wear it. It's too heavy."
It's beautiful and unique, made up of thinly sliced round discs.
I remember this necklace from my childhood. Clomping around in my mom's high heels, sparkling with jewels, in front of the mirror.
"It's ivory." she says casually.
I cringe. It never occurred to me that it was ivory, even though it is shaped like a tusk. I could never wear it or sell it. But, I had no idea what to do with it. So I hung it on an african mask in my office. I thought about taking it to my sons school and explaining the plight of the elephants and rhinos, or donating it to a learning center or museum. But, nothing felt right.
Asian and African elephants are on the endangered species list but, this hasn't slowed the ivory trade. It is estimated that more than seventy-thousand African elephants were killed by poachers in the last three years and that they will be wiped out of existence, within ten years.
It is largely due to poverty, weak governance, and corruption. But, China's illegal ivory trade is a powerful force behind many of the problems. It is a symbol of status and with China's rising middle and wealthy class the hunger for animal teeth has reached a frenzy.
The West African Black rhino, Javan Rhino and Northern White rhino have been massacred for their horn, that is thought to be medicinal and is a symbol of power in asian cultures. They are all now extinct.
The Sumaran and One-horned Rhinos, Sumatran elephant are critically endangered.
But, China is not the only culprit. Big game and trophy hunters pay exorbitant amounts of money to thousands of animals every year. Somehow, they think it braver to annihilate the biggest and rarest and disregard those protected under the Endangered Species Act. Though, to me trophy hunters are not merely cowards, they lack empathy, judgement, and any understanding of their proper place in the world.
A few African nations like Botswana, Kenya, Zambia have had the courage to stand up to big business and ban trophy hunting.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress, may be judged by the way its animals are treated.” - Mahatma Gandhi
The true value of every human being is judged by this.
So, for the last day of the 24 Things Challenge I am burying this necklace next to my dog's graves. What remains of this elephant will rest with my flowers and beloved pets, and will remind me every day to send out a prayer of hope for these beautiful creatures.