NOW with Alex Wagner | February 19, 2013
>> lyle legal ivory trade is decimating --
>> we decided make the special on the ivory trade after learning that last year alone more than 12% of the world's elephants were killed for their tusks. we wanted to know why the demand for ivory is as high now as perhaps it's ever been.
>> the elephant , one of the most majestic mammals in the animal kingdom , is now in danger of being hunted to extinction in the next ten years. the decline has been precipitous. there were ten million elephants in africa . by 1940 it had shrunk to four million. by at this point the world stepped in, and a treaty was signed banning the sale of ivory . enforcement was overseen by the convention on international trade and endangered species . the elephant population rebounded to one million. ten years later the floodgates were open when the international body allowed the one-time legal sale of 55 tons of ivory to japan from zimbabwe and botswana. in 2008 it allowed a second one-time sale of 115 tons to china sxhooin japan.
>> it's virlt we'll impossible.
>> in the documentary a journalist demonstrates how easy it is to buy illegal ivory while another, brian christy , looks at the rapid middle class growth in china which is fuelling the demand for illegal ivory .
>> ivory has been prized in china for over 2,000 years as a status symbol. perfect for depicting religious figures, a material like no other. our research revealed that 83% of china 's huge middle class intends to buy ivory products in the future.
>> joining us now investigative reporter and contributing writer for national geographic magazine brian christy and actress and activist kristin davis . it is great to have you both here.
>> thank you for having us.
>> kristen , i mean, staggering, staggering, and shocking. scloo heart breaking.
>> and i guess i wonder, a, you know, how did you come to this issue? it feels like, you know, someone of your stature and acclaim, it's very important to have spokes people on this issue and especially where consumers are so involved, so tell us a little bit about your history zoosh well, i had been going to africa since 2001 . i particularly always loved elephants. i find that there are people who are just drawn to elephants, and i'm one of those people. i was back in 2008 on a trip visiting my friends, and we came across an abandoned elephant -- a lone baby elephant who cannot survive. they feed every three hours like a human baby . everyone knows that they will not survive. my friends and i found her. she was terrified. we called the woman who would know what to do, daphne, who runs an elephant in nairobi for abandoned baby elephants. i had seen a piece on "60 minutes" just the week before, and so we called her. we got the elephant to her, and that was how i became kind of personally invested, and i really didn't know before that that the illegal ivory trade was happening again, and that elephants were being poached and there's been a horrible, shocking increase since then that brian can talk about which is really -- it means that elephants could be extinct in the wild in ten years. in our lifetime, which to me is unacceptable. we mentioned that the demand from china , you know, it's interesting. talk about a globalization and changing world, and we talk about, you know, millions of chinese being lifted out of poverty and to the middle class , and sort of what that affords in terms of political capital , but there are sort of residual effects of that, and one is the demand for luxury items, and something like ivory , we're talking 85 -- i think it's 85% of the population has some kind of illegal ivory in china . i mean, how do you -- that's a staggering figure. what do you do about that?
>> yeah. the figure -- everything when it comes to the elephant and the future of the elephant , everything rest on china 's shoulders. thank god, the chinese people are able to now afford things that they couldn't in the past. one of those things that they're choosing to buy is ivory , and it's completely out of time with the rest of the world , and it's out of time with what the species needs to survive.
>> and kristen , we were talking about the blood diamond agenda and that really -- i think it changed consumer sort of the way consumers understood their luxury goods .
>> the idea that these things come from a place. we are often so divorce from our material objects.
>> and their origins. ivory is certainly seemingly one of those things, so it takes i think a massive sort of awareness campaign zoosh yes, because they are being lied to. brian does some amazing undercorps work in china . you know, when you go to buy ivory , they say that it's old. if you really press them, when was this -- how did this ivory come to be in the shop. they say it's old, before the ban. there's no way to prove that. they are being lied to. i don't totally blame them. i don't know that they know the truth, and that's why we need to talk about it. that's why we need to show them what is happening, and make them realize, okay, that does cost something, and that costs elephants living in the wild. like, it's a huge price to pay that none of our children will live in a world where elephants live in the wild.
>> is this conversation happening in china ? it's clearly happening here.
>> i feel like i've read reed about it and watched bhaets going on.
>> how much of this had is taking hold there?
>> it's not easy.
>> you're right. i mean, it's very -- ngo's, the nongovernment organizations, the world wildlife funds, those kind of things we think of second nature here, don't exist for the most part in china . if there's going to be a solution in china , it's going to have to be a grassroots domestic population driven effort, and you're right. it doesn't exist now, and it needs also to come -- it's the nice thing about a command economy is that you can dictate terms, and the chinese government has not put a single wildlife trafficker in jail.
>> but also, we did have it here as well. there was a philadelphia -- a store selling ivory where an undercover sting.
>> it's not just elephant blood. carl and the "new york times" makes a very, very good point, heather. ivory , he writes, is about poverty, ethnic rivalry, terrorism, and civil war . elephant blood lubricates the flow of human blood . blood ivory has been helping to finance al qaeda 's al shabab wing, lords resistance army and sudan's murderous janjaweed, that a craving of carvings fuels this is symptomatic that's distant of detached international markets , regulators --
>> you can look at this issue of ivory , the issue of diamonds, the issue of battery products and source material where we really have created a globalized economy where capital is globalized, consumption is globalized, but labor is still at the bottom of that chain. where the links between consumers and their values and what is being done on the ground to extract in so many -- whether it's extracting oil, exactly, it's really just in violation of i think most of the global community 's values. what are you doing is really important to try to lift up and show a spotlight, and i think it's really important for the chinese consumer as well to be brought into that conversation.
>> you can hope that as -- again, as more chinese are indicated, as the sort of human rights becomes a really universal value that's engrained in societies both here and abroad that the issue of, you know, sourcie origins, fair trade , and blood costs of luxury items is something that means something to people of the world over.
>> we can hope, but we need to hurry. you know, this is the problem. it's, like, are the good people who have the right morals and the right ethics willing to fight, you know? we have to fight. we can't be like oh, yes, we understand what is right. we have to get out there and fight because the bad people are fighting hard for their money. they're greedy, and they're doing bad things with that money, and they are going to decimate the elephants, and then it's going to be too late, and we're going to say oh, no.
>> there was the elephant .
>> we cannot do that. we have to fight hard.
>> kristen , did you know that andrew ross sorkin adopted -- what did you --
>> i have adopted elephants the same place -- she knows that.
>> where was that? tell our viewers where that was.
>> anyone can adopt an elephant and be a spiritual sponsor to the people who are taking care of the orphaned elephants who are orphaned by this illegal ivory trade.
>> they are majestic ma'am a.m.s.
>> we will be sure to continue to shed a spotlight. brian christy and kristen davis battle for elephants. airs next wednesday on pbs. coming up, an olympian's day in court. we'll have a report from the trial of track star oscar pistorius and discuss fallen heroes . ahead on "now." i've