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SUBMITTED PHOTO - Debbie Ethell, executive director of The KOTA Foundation, watches the wild elephants that she has been studying for years take a mud bath in Voi, Kenya. Ethell will be a featured speaker at a march Saturday in Portland.. In an effort to raise awareness about a mass poaching crisis, referred to as “wildlife genocide,” that is driving elephants, rhinos and other endangered animals to the brink of extinction, Portland will join for the first time with more than 145 cities around the world at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, at Terry Schrunk Plaza for the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos.


Portland’s peaceful march is set for the opening day of the world’s largest, most influential conference on international wildlife trade — CITES CoP17, which is taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa. Marchers will call on CITES to provide these iconic, highly intelligent and sentient animals with the highest level of protection: a global ban on the ivory and rhino horn trade and wildlife trafficking; stockpiles burned worldwide; and listing elephants and rhinos under Appendix 1 — the highest level of protection granted by CITES.

Guest speakers at the Portland march will include Debbie Ethell, executive director of The KOTA Foundation, which educates people about African elephants as a way to support positive outcomes for their survival; and Kristin Leppert, campaign director of Save Endangered Animals Oregon, a grassroots campaign that put Measure 100 on the November ballot to protect 12 endangered animals from wildlife trafficking. Vote “yes” on 100!

Many people are shocked when they hear that the U.S. has the second-largest market behind China in the demand for illegal ivory and other wildlife parts and products, and that these majestic animals are less than 10 years away from extinction. It is estimated that one elephant is killed every 15 minutes, leaving less than 350,000 in the wild. One rhinoceros is killed every eight hours, leaving less than 25,000 in the wild.

The statistics make people cringe. Cruelty and exploitation that leads to any animal’s extinction is unsettling for people to hear, but we must hear it in order to take action to save them.

Human beings are the reason that these animals are suffering and close to extinction, but we are the only ones who can save them. We have the collective power to save them — but we must act now.

William Ripple, a distinguished Oregon State University professor of ecology, and other conservation scientists published the BioScience article “Saving the World’s Terrestrial Megafauna” on July 27. The article includes a 13-point declaration, a global strategy to prevent extinction. Professor Ripple and his colleagues have provided the world with the key to saving these magnificent animals from extinction, and I encourage everyone to read the article and take immediate action.

Elephants and rhinos are keystone species. They provide immense biodiversity and ecosystem services that are life-giving for small and large species, including human beings. These giant herbivores are ecological engineering powerhouses.

If elephants and rhinos become extinct, it will devastate ecosystems and will have a permanent effect on the biodiversity of our planet, which is critical for all living beings to survive. The world cannot afford to lose them — they are precious and priceless.

The official website for the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos is www.march4elephantsandrhinos.org. I invite everyone who values life on Earth to march with us. Help us leave a legacy for generations to come of love, kindness, compassion and humanity.

Lisa Brisley is a Lake Oswego resident.

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