Library of Congress Event Unveils Graphic Novel on Grim Reality of Ivory Trade

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), and the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress hosted a ceremony this afternoon at the Library’s famed Thomas Jefferson Building to introduce A Dangerous Life, a new graphic novel addressing the global ivory trade and the slaughter of African elephants.

A Dangerous Life, aimed at middle school-aged readers, is written and illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka and published by AWI and KWS. In vivid illustrations and text, it tells the story of a teen girl from America whose family made a fortune in the early 20th century from elephant ivory. She takes a trip to Africa, where she encounters wild elephants and witnesses first-hand the terrible price they pay to meet the demand for ivory. She and the Chinese and Kenyan friends she makes on her trip vow to save elephants and educate people about ivory and where it comes from.

A representative from KWS spoke at the event of the enormous difficulty of attempting to stop poachers on the ground: “As I speak, it is now evening in Kenya, and Kenya Wildlife Service ranger patrols are at this moment probing through that evening darkness searching for poaching gangs.  Kenya Wildlife Service officers are right now conducting surveillance efforts and investigations trying to identify trafficking gangs so they can be arrested and brought to trial.” But he added: “We are fighting international criminal syndicates that are motivated by extremely powerful financial incentives. … These syndicates can pay poachers more for one evening of slaughter than a KWS ranger earns in a year. [They] run an industry that some estimate to have a turn-over of US$2 billion a year.”

"It is important that young people all over the world understand the true cost of ivory in innocent elephant lives,” remarked AWI President Cathy Liss.“ Just as we were about to present this book to the Library of Congress, we received the devastating news that Satao, one of Kenya’s most beloved elephants, had been felled by poachers who coveted his famously massive tusks. We need the world to know that this is happening and that we must not only support strong enforcement, but cut off demand. It is our hope that A Dangerous Life will educate and inspire its young readers to become advocates for elephants and do their part to help society turn away from ivory.” 

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), a longtime champion of animal welfare on Capitol Hill, stated, “The illegal poaching of elephants is an urgent conservation crisis. Increasingly controlled by highly-coordinated criminal enterprises and terrorist networks, ivory trafficking has reduced the population of African elephants by 7–8 million since the 1930s. I applaud the Animal Welfare Institute, Kenya Wildlife Service, the Library of Congress, and author Sheila Hamanaka for raising public awareness of this critical issue.  We must do all we can to stop the slaughter before these magnificent creatures are driven to extinction.”

Kenya will be featured at the Smithsonian Institute’s Folklife Festival, which gets underway tomorrow.  The book will be distributed at the festival and will also be distributed throughout Kenya and in particular to visitors of Kenya’s national parks, where many people come to visit the country’s elephants and other wildlife.