Why Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s new series on the Ivory Trade is the most compelling stuff on TV right now.

You can keep your Stranger Things, pal. 

I admit TV chefs aren’t normally my thing, (Come Dine and Bake Off are different stories, obviously), but that’s about as far as I usually take it. Not anymore! I have been turned by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who has seemingly moved on from cinnamon buns and soufflés to something much more gripping.

I knew he had it in him, he’s always been a down-to-earth, try and damage the planet as little as possible, self-reliant, environmental campaigner kind of guy. Last year I watched War on Waste and this was really when I started to pay attention. And now, he seems to have gone even further up my list of “People Who Are Great” with his latest two part series called Saving Africa’s Elephants, where he really gets into the thick of the ivory and illegal animal parts trade and attempts to uncover what more can be done to save our elephants and rhinos before they are gone.

With endless campaigns, legislations being passed by governments across the world every day and science proving that if there was any medicinal value to ivory, we might as well eat our own hair, it’s hard to see how or why the situation is still so dire for our Earth’s elephants.

By the time you go to bed today, 80 African Savannah Elephants will have been killed for their ivory.

I don’t want to go too much in to detail about the programmes because they really need to be watched in all their glorious form to understand the frustrating nature of what the elephants and rhinos are up against.

So, here’s 5 key points to take home:

  1. The UK government’s most recent attempt to help in banning ivory is almost pointless as the sale of antique ivory is legal. This makes it very easy to use the precedence of antique as a cover for modern.
  2. Even worse, the sale of antique ivory – genuine or not, undoubtedly stimulates the trade and keeps the demand high
  3. Asian demand is increasing all the time as it’s a sign of wealth with supposed (and competently disregarded by science) medicinal properties…
  4. There are huge discrepancies in the security and protection these animals are being given at almost every level. Eg. At Mombassa port cargo ships are put through scanners, however tea cargos are only randomly selected for scanning. So ivory smugglers target tea cargos and turns out it doesn’t take much money for the security at Mombassa to look the other way. As an employee so bravely tells the camera “big companies are trusted, but this privilege given to big companies can be abused by their employees”
  5.  Most alarmingly Hugh found that ivory really is “just a phone call away”



So what are the solutions?

Obviously there are tonnes of ways to go about solving the problem, but the show focused on two sides in particular:

Idealist – The optimist of the two, hopes if we burn all the ivory stores left, increase protection for our elephants and rhinos, increase the level of security at government level, the demand for ivory will decrease. Essentially, we’re hoping that people will change, the demand within Asia falls and so too does the need for poachers to shoot the animals.

Realist – This proposes to flood the ivory in an attempt to reduce the price of ivory. If ivory trade becomes legal and ivory perhaps from farmed animals is sold, ivory will no longer be a sign of wealth in Asia and so, the demand falters. This means the people will pay for the ivory of farmed animals meaning the horns can be taken as humanely as cutting off a finger nail and the money that paid for ivory will also pay for the protection of the animals themselves.

Arguably the most important thing we learnt from Hugh was that even the legal selling of antique ivory in the UK, does stimulate the trade of modern illegal ivory by keeping the demand high – only if the demand is reduced or the sale of ivory is completely eradicated can we know our elephants and rhinos have a chance!

Head to BBC iPlayer if you want to see the series, but more importantly,  sign this petition Shut down the domestic ivory market in the UK  before it’s too late for our ellies!