After the killing of Cecil the lion last month, wildlife conservation is back in the spotlight. Poaching and illegal trafficking have led to the decline of several species -- including rhinos, tigers and turtles -- and, with Aug. 12 designated World Elephant Day, the Wildlife Conservation Society wants to raise awareness of the plight of elephants. Ivory trafficking and poaching kill 35,000 African elephants each year.

The Wildlife Conservation Society launched the 96 Elephants campaign -- the number of animals killed each day -- to raise awareness of this issue. About 800,000 African elephants have been killed over the last three decades, according to WCS. Around 1,000 African elephants were killed between 2010 and 2012. Wildlife tracking is the fourth-largest illegal business in the world, according to the European Commission. Ivory trafficking is behind the poaching of elephants and the trade is banned or restricted in 181 countries, according to the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). More than 60 tons of ivory were seized in 2014 and 44 tons were seized in 2013, according to Reuters. A shipment of ivory worth approximately $6 million was seized in Singapore in May, Agence France-Presse reported.

"You don’t have to be a scientist to know that ivory comes from dead elephants,” Teresa Telecky, director of the wildlife department at Humane Society International, said in an open letter to President Barack Obama calling for tighter ivory restrictions. Obama announced his plans to ban most sales of ivory -- including documentation from sellers that their ivory meets the guidelines for exemptions under the new deal -- and keep recent restrictions from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in place. 

"Ivory and rhino horn, derived from the illegal killing of elephants and rhinos in Africa and Asia, are typically trafficked by transnational organized crime syndicates across the world, including into the United States," Cristián Samper, Wildlife Conservation Society president and CEO, said in a statement. "The United States has a global obligation to help stop wildlife trafficking. We welcome the leadership of the Obama Administration in using the expertise, influence and assistance of the United States to help end this scourge." 

World Elephant Day 2015 Infographic Elephants boost the economy but are endangered due to poaching. Photo: Wildlife Conservation Society

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