A guest blog from Mary Rice, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency and Elephant Campaign Leader\r\nElephants have been part of my consciousness for as long as I can remember, from my first encounter with a baby elephant when I was five or six to my time at the Environmental Investigation Agency. I have been privileged to meet some of the most inspirational people on the planet who have dedicated their lives to ensuring there is a future for these magnificent beasts.\r\n\r\nArchitects of the savannah\r\nThe assumption that the human is the only mammal worth saving is both na\u00efve and dangerous \u2013 elephants are a keystone species, playing a critical role in the ecosystem. Often called the architects of the savannah, they pull down trees and thorny bushes to create grasslands and salt licks, enhancing the survival odds of many other species.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThey create waterholes in dry river beds that are used by other wildlife and humans. They are also the \u2018gardeners\u2019 of the bush, fertilising the soil, dispersing seeds and nuts, and germinating many trees and plants. Africa\u2019s forest elephants are considered the most effective seed-dispersers of any animal.\r\nFighting for the future of elephants\r\nThe Environmental Investigation Agency has been at the forefront of protecting elephants for more than three decades. We were instrumental in securing the international ban on ivory trade in the late \u201980s and we have been fighting to keep it in place ever since. We have worked long and hard to close domestic markets that provide a cover for the illegal ivory trade, a trade which is relentless and dynamic.\r\nThe impact of our work is clear. By providing confidential information to enforcement authorities we have facilitated an intelligence-led approach to tackling the illegal trade in ivory. Last year, the Government of China closed its domestic ivory market and earlier this year they announced the conclusion of an extraordinary enforcement effort built on the back of information we provided. This resulted in the disruption of two prolific criminal networks that had been smuggling ivory into China for decades and 11 convictions with sentences ranging from six to 15 years. And the UK finally took the decision to close its market earlier this year.\r\n\r\n\r\nNew threats to our largest land mammal\r\nUnfortunately, the same response has not been the case with a number of Vietnamese networks now operating out of Africa and into Vietnam and beyond. Vietnam has become the new \u2018China\u2019 of the illegal ivory trade and seems impervious to pressure, international or otherwise, to shut these groups down; much as China was for a number of years.\r\n\r\nWe are seeing new routes and networks springing up across Africa. As historical ivory trade areas are depleted \u2013 Tanzania and Mozambique have both lost more than half their elephant populations to illegal trade over the past decade \u2013 the criminal gangs move elsewhere. We have seen a number of other African countries emerging as hot spots for trade; Nigeria is a major transit hub for ivory as well as pangolin and timber while West African elephants continue to be targeted. Our challenges remain and are growing.\r\n\r\nAs human populations continue to grow and encroach on previous wildlife strongholds with resulting competition for space and resources, human-elephant conflict is inevitable and tragic. There is no silver bullet solution but initiatives adapted to local conditions can go some way to mitigating these pressures.\r\nClimate change - a stark warning\r\nClimate change is also a massive challenge affecting both terrestrial and marine wildlife. We have seen recent mass protests in London and around the world to raise the urgency of climate change as a very real and ominous threat. Droughts, floods, random weather events and unseasonal extremes of temperature all serve as warnings of what we can expect if we don\u2019t take immediate affirmative action.\r\n\r\nWith the release in May of the long-awaited report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services, we have received a stark warning from its Chair, Sir Robert Watson: \u201cThe health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.\u201d\r\n\r\nI refuse to entertain the thought that the future might be one without elephants. If we cannot secure a future for the biggest terrestrial land mammal, how on Earth will we ensure a future for the myriad of other creatures which are equally important to a healthy landscape and our own well-being?\r\nInvesting in the planet\u2019s protection for generations to come\r\n\r\n\r\nThis year the Environmental Investigation Agency will celebrate its 35th anniversary. Thanks to our supporters and the legacies we have received over the years, we have already achieved so much but we must keep the pressure on to:\r\n\r\n \tSecure the future of beautiful and endangered species including elephants, tigers and pangolins from the threats of transnational wildlife crime\r\n \tProtect pristine forests from illegal logging and aggressive deforestation\r\n \tSafeguard global marine ecosystems from man-made threats to whales, dolphins and porpoises\r\n \tReduce the impact of climate change by eliminating powerful greenhouse gases\r\n \tTackle marine plastic pollution\r\n\r\nLeaving a gift in your Will to the Environmental Investigation Agency\r\nA gift to the Environmental Investigation Agency in your Will is an investment in the protection of biodiversity and habitat conservation for generations to come.\r\n\r\nFor more information about leaving a gift in your Will to the Environmental Investigation Agency, please visit www.eia-international.org\/what-can-you-do\/ways-to-donate\/gift-in-your-will\/\r\n\r\nThank you!