The conservation non-profit WildAid announced today that actress Lupita Nyong’o will join their campaign to end the international ivory trade. The Academy-Award winner returned to Kenya, the country where she grew up, to visit Amboseli National Park and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s elephant orphanage. There, she is filming a series of videos to raise awareness about the elephant poaching.
“I ask the world to end the current elephant poaching crisis by being ‘Ivory Free.’ It is time to ban sales of ivory worldwide and to consign the tragedy of the ivory trade to history,” said Nyong’o in a statement. “Brave and dedicated people are giving their lives to protect our elephants. They need all of our support, from people in the United States and Asia by not buying ivory, and from Kenyans in supporting anti-poaching by reporting wildlife crime.”
According to a report published by the UN Environment Programme and INTERPOL last year, an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 elephants are killed every year. WildAid sets their estimate at 33,000 and other estimates put that number as high as 50,000. Poached African ivory is estimated to have a street value of anywhere between $165 million to $188 million in U.S. dollars per year according to the UN/INTERPOL report.
Although the international trade in ivory has been banned by a treaty since 1989, the sale of ivory remains legal in many individual countries and a black market for ivory continues to thrive. At the current rate of poaching, elephants could be extinct within a decade.
In the U.S., The Fish and Wildlife Service has begun the practice of destroying confiscated ivory, to ensure that it can never again enter the market. Earlier this month, one ton of ivory was publicly crushed in Times Square.
WildAid frequently works with celebrities to voice the urgent need to stop the trade in threatened species. Nyong’o joins Prince William, David Beckham and Yao Ming in the call to end all ivory sales. WildAid and the African Wildlife Foundation said they will recruit more prominent Kenyans to promote the message: “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”