What Do Elephants Have to Do With #BringBackOurGirls? The Answer May Scare You

Anyone following the news in recent weeks – especially in recent days, thanks to an extremely inspiring wave of social media support – has been horrified to hear about the kidnapping of more than 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria in April (and the appalling inaction worldwide to rescue them, let alone provide adequate media coverage of the crisis for the past few months).

But what does all this have to do with elephants?

More than you think... and it's not pleasant.

4 of the kidnapped girls who escaped. 276 girls remain captured. [photo: AP Photo/Haruna Umar, File]

Follow the Money, and You'll Find the Elephants

As you may know, elephants are closer to extinction than ever right now due to a rampant poaching epidemic that is killing an average of 100 elephants a day. The world's last remaining elephants are being slaughtered without abandon -- often entire families at a time -- all for their ivory tusks.

However, not many people know the frightening fact that the profits from this illegal ivory often ends up straight in the pockets of criminal syndicates and terrorist groups. Comprehensive reports have unequivocally linked the illegal ivory trade to terrorist groups such as al-Shabaab, who carried out the mass murder of 67 people in a Nairobi shopping mall last year.

Ivory has become so profitable that it's worth more than heroin, earning it the frightening nickname of "white gold." In fact, illegal ivory profits funds more than 40 percent of the salaries of al-Shabaab militants, according to reports.

And, unfortunately, another group explicitly identified as receiving funding from the ivory trade is Boko Haram -- the same extremist terrorist organization considered responsible for the kidnapping and torture of the Nigerian schoolgirls.

Protecting Elephants Protects Humans

What does following the money, and connecting the ivory crisis to terrorism, tell us? Although the facts themselves are grim, there's a basic and undeniable truth here, too: we are all connected.

Sometimes animal rights, wildlife, and environmental activists are unfairly accused of ignoring the very real problems that humans face by focusing on wildlife, such as elephants, instead.

But the truth is that protecting elephants protects humans, too. If ending the ivory trade means that even just one vicious killer or kidnapper doesn't get a paycheck -- and trust us, it would be many more than just one -- then it's worth it.

It's worth it for the elephants. It's worth it for the local communities who benefit economically from wildlife conservation (such as sustainable tourism). It's worth it for the innocents who are tortured or killed by the same criminal networks that poach elephants. It's worth it for our children, and our children's children, to live in a safer world -- a safer world that includes elephants.

How Can You Help?

Some people may be skeptical about the power of social media, but raising awareness matters. Go on Twitter and Facebook and elsewhere, and tell the world you're appalled that the missing girls haven't been rescued yet. #BringOurGirlsBack Now.

And tell them that you're appalled that the ivory trade is still alive and thriving -- even in the United States -- and helping to fund these horrific activities.

One of the best ways you can be heard? Sign our petition to the White House! Enough signatures will get the President himself to weigh in on these issues.