+

Elephants are having a pretty good 2016 so far.

Early this year, the Ringling Bros. circus announced that it would retire all elephants from its performances by May 2016, more than a year ahead of its original schedule, which would've had the elephants working until 2018.


Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images.

Then, on Jan. 13, 2016, everyone's favorite betrunked pachyderms received even more good news:

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced plans to "phase out" ivory sales in the city.

Leung Chun-ying speaking in Hong Kong in 2015. Photo by Phillippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images.

Ivory, of course, is the hard, white material that comes from the teeth and tusks of various animals. Elephants, with tusks that are often bigger than those of walruses or warthogs, are the biggest source of ivory and most at risk from ivory poachers.

The use of ivory to craft items dates back to prehistoric times. In the modern age, ivory has been used to craft everything from billiard balls to piano keys to gun stocks.

A 26,000-year-old mammoth ivory carving on display in Paris. Photo by Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images.

The import and export of ivory is already banned in Hong Kong. But the ivory trade remains very much alive there.

About 400 sellers are permitted to trade in ivory material and products as long as they were created before 1989, which is when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species introduced a treaty that banned the sale of ivory products created after that year.

Activists like Alex Hofford of WildAid Hong Kong argue that while the treaty had its merits, it has resulted in a legal loophole, through which a large ivory black market has been able to survive.

"Hong Kong has always been the dark heart of the ivory trade," Hofford told CNN.

The plan introduced earlier this year will close the loophole and "ban totally the sale of ivory in Hong Kong" Chun-ying said in his statement. "We'll do it expeditiously. As quickly as we can."

Seized ivory tusks in Hong Kong, which were subsequently destroyed by the Chinese government in 2014. Photo by Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images.

This total ban is poised to make a significant impact, as Hong Kong "displays for retail sale more elephant and mammoth ivory items than any other city in the world surveyed for ivory," according to a 2015 report from activist group Save the Elephants.

This is a huge victory for elephants, a species rapidly nearing extinction.

They needed a victory, too.

The demand for ivory has led to an epidemic of elephant poaching. In Africa, ivory poachers killed 100,000 elephants in the last three years. If that trend continues, African elephants could be extinct within a generation.

Dune Ives, senior researcher at Vulcan, told The Guardian last March that “in five years we may have lost the opportunity to save this magnificent and iconic animal.”

African elephants walking to a water hole in Tanzania. Photo by Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images.

In October 2015, after a visit to an elephant sanctuary in China, Britain's Prince William urged the Chinese to stop purchasing elephant ivory and rhino horn.

Prince William with a baby elephant in China's Yunnan province. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

In a speech broadcast on Chinese state television, he told the public to think of what they would tell their children if elephants went extinct on our watch.

"Let us not tell our children the sad tale of how we watched as the last elephants, rhinos, and tigers died out," he said, "but the inspiring story of how we turned the tide and preserved them for all humanity."

With Hong Kong finally phasing out the ivory trade, we might actually be able to save the species.

Which is great news for the whole world.

Especially since baby elephants look like this:

OH MY GOD LOOK AT HIM. Photo by Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images.

True

Innovation is awesome, right? I mean, it gave us the internet!

However, there is always a price to pay for modernization, and in this case, it’s in the form of digital eye strain, a group of vision problems that can pop up after as little as two hours of looking at a screen. Some of the symptoms are tired and/or dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain1. Ouch!

Keep ReadingShow less
popular

Artist captures how strangers react to her body in public and it's fascinating

Haley Morris-Cafiero's photos might make you rethink how you look at people.

Credit: Haley Morris-Cafiero

Artist Haley Morris-Cafiero describes herself on her website as "part performer, part artist, part provocateur, part spectator." Her recent project, titled "Wait Watchers" has elements of all her self-descriptors.

In an email to us, Morris-Cafiero explained that she set up a camera in the street and stood in front of it, doing mundane activities like looking at a map or eating gelato. While she's standing there she sets off her camera, taking hundreds of photos.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

5 ways to support your trans friends when they come out.

If someone trusts you with news that they're trans, there are a few key do's and don'ts you should follow.

Some tools to help us stand beside people we love and support.

This article originally appeared on 03.09.16. It has been lightly edited.


For many gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people, one of the most personal (and sometimes scary) experiences they'll go through is the "coming out" process.

Coming out means telling others of your status as an LGBTQ person. As society is becoming more accepting of people's sexual orientation and gender identity, coming out is getting easier all the time. Even so, for many, it's still a carefully calculated process that involves planning who, how, and when to tell people in their lives.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Woman reunites with her family 51 years after being kidnapped

Melissa Highsmith never even knew her real family was searching for her.

The family celebrate their reunion following a decades long search

In 1971, Melissa Highsmith was kidnapped from her home in Fort Worth, Texas. Her disappearance has been one of the oldest missing person cases in America. Now, she gets to celebrate a long-awaited reunion with her family in what she calls a “Christmas miracle.”

As ABC affiliate WFAA reported, Melissa’s mother, Alta (who now goes by Alta Apantenco) had put out an ad for a babysitter to watch over her then 21-month-old while she was at work. A white gloved, well-dressed woman going by the name of Ruth Johnson responded to the call, but she was no babysitter. After Johnson picked up baby Melissa from Apantenco’s roommate, the two were never seen again.

As any parents would do in this situation, the Highsmiths worked tirelessly to find their little girl, involving the Fort Worth police and even the FBI. Sadly, it was all to no avail. The only glimmer of hope remaining was that there was no evidence of harm, so maybe, just maybe, their Melissa was being well taken care of. And for 51 years, the family held onto that possibility.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Visual Karsa on Unsplash

Three McDonald's workers help deliver customer's baby

Usually when someone walks into McDonald's they expect to walk out with something to eat, not a baby.

But for new mom Alandria Worthy, that's exactly what happened. Worthy was on her way to the hospital but needed to use the bathroom so she had her fiancé make a pit stop at McDonald's.

After a few minutes of Worthy being in the bathroom, workers heard the mom to be screaming which prompted Tunisia Woodward, the manager on duty to check things out. The her surprise, she was about to turn into a labor and delivery nurse.

Woodward explained in an interview with 11 Alive that she saw feet under the stall door before saying, “I opened, and she was on this toilet lying back, screaming. Then I knew to tell my crew, ‘We’re having a baby today.’” Woodward was right, the baby was coming and the three moms are duty were there to help.

Keep ReadingShow less