13-Year-Old Taegen Yardley Is Fighting To Save Elephants, As They Are On The Path To Extinction

The elephant is the largest land animal in the world. They are intelligent and have a strong family structure and like people are capable of forming very special bonds with their friends and family members. Sadly elephants face many threats, they are being slaughtered and their families are being ripped apart for their tusks to make trinkets, fueled largely by China. This is illegal and also fuels many terrorist and militia groups. At the rate they are being slaughtered they will go extinct in ten years. Elephants need plenty of space, their habitat is shrinking due to human expansion, this means elephants and people come into contact more often, and conflicts occur. Elephants ancient migration routes are being cut off, which the elephants need to get to water.

Elephants are a keystone species, they play a critical role in the environment, they help maintain forest and savanna ecosystems,They pull down trees and break up thorny bushes, which help create grasslands for other animals to survive. They also play a vital role in seed dispersal, especially for large seeds that are not spread by smaller animals, many different trees species depend on elephants to germinate them. Elephants create water holes by digging in dry river beds, which gives other animals access to water.

Even though Taegen has never seen an elephant in the wild it has not stopped her from advocating for the survival of their species. Taegen became passionate in 2013, after watching the documentary “Battle for the Elephants” This movie had an enormous impact on her and made her want to act in their defence.

Taegen talks about what she's been doing to save the elephants.

"I have spent a lot of time educating myself on the major conservation and humanitarian reasons as to why it is so important to keep elephants on this planet."

 "In April of 2015, I testified at the Vermont State House, in support of Bill H.297( ban on the sale of ivory and rhino horn ). After my testimony, I participated in a Skype session with students in Hong Kong who have been working to ban ivory sales there. We shared ideas about what to do to ban the sale of ivory in our countries. 

After our call, I was inspired to initiate the “Global March for Elephants and Rhinos”, which took place in Burlington. The march was much more successful than anyone could have imagined. Over 325 children and adults from all over Vermont joined us to march, as one voice, in solidarity with the thousands of others who marched in the over 150 demonstrations, which were held around the world on the same day. There was so much support for this event.
I worked with a local artist who opened her studio for us and sponsored a T-shirt making event for families. So many families came and made T-shirts that were worn to the March. "

" also worked with the same artist to find a way to make imitation elephant tusks. I wanted to make 192 which would represent the 196 elephants killed each day. With the help of many friends, we were able to make 192. The tusks were made out of pool noodles, wire and plaster paper. People carried them in the march and then we made a pile at the end of the march to symbolise the 96 elephants killed each day

After the march, I wanted to keep the momentum going. With support from many students and one amazing teacher, Mark Cline-Lucey at Vermont Commons School, I was able to produce a movie called “Kids Battle for a World with Elephants”. This movie has been viewed around the world, over 80,000 times and has just been translated into Mandarin so that it can be seen and understood by even more people around the world.

 I am so happy that our film has become an inspiration to people across the globe. I never dreamed that it would reach some of the people it has reached.Because of this film, I was invited by the Executive Director of the Jackson Hole International Wildlife Film Festival to attend World Wildlife Day celebratory events at the Department of State in DC and at the UN in NYC While I was there I met journalists, movie producers, conservationists, Hollywood actors and many government officials. It was wonderful to be amongst so many people all fighting for the same cause. "

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America is providing the second largest ivory market in the world after China. How can people of all ages help save elephants?

"People can support this effort by finding out if there is a law banning the sale of ivory in their state. If not, they should contact their legislators and work toward legislation being passed in their states. We must close all of the loopholes that exist. Federal laws do not prohibit the sale of ivory between states and we must put an end to it".

What challenges have you had?

"The biggest challenge is getting Bill H.297 passed in Vermont. The Bill did not pass in Vermont. It passed the house by an enormous majority but the bill was killed because the Senate wanted to add exemptions that were unacceptable. We are  starting over again with high hopes of it being passed in 2017."

What do you think of Elephants in the circus?

"That is something that we need to put an end to also. It is great that Ringling Brothers is putting an end to elephant acts, but there is so much work to be done."

Taegen is a great example of what we can all do, to make changes to help save our planet, no matter how old we are. 

Global March for Elephants and Rhinos in New York

Global March for Elephants and Rhinos in New York

while on my volunteer trip in Kenya was saddened to see this elephant who had been killed with a spear. Other volunteers said they witness a herd of elephants visit the dead elephant. The Vultures feeding on the elephant play a critical role in the environment, their numbers are also declining

 

Karoline HoodComment