Trip Jennings Wins Nat. Geo Grant to Stop Elephant Poaching
The National Geographic Channel named Explorer Trip Jennings the winner of their Expedition Granted contest and awarded him a $10,000 grant to help save elephants from illegal poaching in Africa.
With elephant poaching at unprecedented levels, ivory selling at record prices and elephant populations plummeting, Jennings hopes to use the expedition — The Elephant Ivory Project — to pinpoint ivory-poaching hotspots. He, and a team of explorers, has proposed to help complete a map of African elephant DNA for pioneering conservation biologist Samuel Wasser by traveling to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is considered too dangerous and remote for many researchers to travel.
The team plans to complete the DNA map in the Congo by collecting elephant scat. Wasser uses existing DNA maps to identify poaching hotspots by analyzing ivory seizures from around the world. He is able to locate where each poached elephant lived and help direct resources to regions where they are most needed. However, he has not been able to complete his map because of lack of data, which is why he approached Jennings and his team.
According to Wasser, “elephants are being killed by poachers at a rate of 10 percent per year. With only 470,000 elephants left in the world, it means that in just a few years the only elephants left will live in isolated populations behind fences with armed guards.”
Jennings and Wasser both agree that two major problems face elephants today: first, lack of data to identify all poaching hotspots and second, few people know how serious the elephant poaching problem is, and how resource intensive it will be to stop.
“I hope to address the two largest issues affecting elephants by going into the jungle with a backpack full of camera gear to document the herds and leaving the jungle with a backpack full of elephant poop to complete the DNA map,” Jennings said. “It’s shocking to realize that an average of 105 elephants are being killed by poachers everyday, but it’s not hopeless. In 1989, with a global upwelling of support, the ivory trade was stopped, nearly overnight. We can do that again.”
To learn more about the Elephant Ivory Project visit: www.elephantivoryproject.com