People have asked us—“Why do you march? What good is marching?
Regarding rhino horn, they say “you cannot lessen its fashion or influence those in Vietnam who consume it.” The people who question us say that marches seem “nice” and make those who march “feel good,” but are ultimately useless—a futile gesture, good for nothing other than the egos of those who take part, far away from the halls of power, far away from the carving factories, far away from the scenes of injustice, death, and wholesale destruction of the elephant, rhinoceros, and lion populations that have been under relentless attack by poaching, wildlife trade, corruption, and consumption. They say we are too far away and our activities are merely a waste of time and resources.
How can the public at large know that 100,000 elephants have been killed in the last three years alone if not for the determination of conservationists, scientists, and activists to make certain that we are made aware? Would the editors of our news organizations have covered the recent stories about elephants reaching a tipping point, with more dying than being born, if not for these researchers and the allied activists preparing for the march making certain that they were ready to hear such stories?
Will our newspapers soon be carrying stories of how a rhino dies every 9 hours, each and every day, because status-conscious Vietnamese businessmen believe the detoxification properties of horn allows massive indulgence in food and alcohol? Will we hear stories on the radio and see reports on television about ‘canned’ lion hunts so that trophy hunting tourists can face down the King of the Beasts in a pre-paid and pre-ordained victory?
Now we march for the rights of elephants and rhinos to exist, safe from slaughter. For their rights to live as they have lived for eons, and not to be subject to be killed so that their ivory might be carved into an object that might just as easily been carved from something else, or their horns aren’t ground into powder so that superstitious people consume them in the hopes of improved health, or to be hunted for “trophies” and displayed in death.
There are those in our number who understand wildlife biology and are expert in their biomes and ecology while others are at home in fields such as sociology, political science, and law. Some of us come to elephant and rhino activism with no other training than a firm conviction of the right thing to do—to bend ourselves to do all that we can to contribute in any way to prevent the extinction of elephants in the wild in less than 10 years.
Without the goal of this march, and the other 115 marches all over the globe slated on October 4, it would be much harder, if not impossible, to achieve the necessary public awareness of this crisis situation.
We march for them.
Elephants march hundreds of miles in their range when left undisturbed. For them, we can march a mile or two. A march is a mark. It is mark made by people and all of their other advocacy activities coming together with the singular unified purpose of bringing the looming extinction of elephants, rhinos, and lions directly into the public’s sight. A march is an embodiment. By physically occupying the alleys, streets, avenues, boulevards and plazas, we embody our cause: for the rights of elephants and rhinos to continue to exist. Outside of zoos. Apart from a “conservation” breeding program. To exist as they have existed since before our own species has.
We are the problem. We can be the only solution.