Sometimes a fence is a good thing ....

Among the organizations which NINi proudly supports is a local Congolese NGO called Virunga Yetu. Virunga Yetu has recently started construction of an electrified fence in an important elephant habitat near the Ishasha River border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.  This area was home to large elephant herds before civil strife and illegal hunting significantly reduced numbers on the DRC side of the river.  

Elephants cross the river freely and forage in the National Parks on both sides. In Uganda lies an area of Queen Elizabeth National Park where elephants and other animals are well protected and rarely come in contact with the local population. On the DRC side, it is a different story, with numerous villages located just outside the Virunga National Park boundaries.  These villagers are subsistence farmers and their fields are regularly ravaged by a resurgent elephant population which doesn’t care whether a manioc field is located inside or outside a park.  A real life case study in the sort of challenges which can arise when elephants and people compete to use the same land.  The solution: A 10 km. fence to keep elephants inside the park and out of the farmers’ fields.  According to a local official: ‘The principal objective is the protection of the animals.  But an important effect will be the protection of the farmers’ fields and livelihoods. And as an additional benefit, more than 100 young men and women will be employed by Virunga Yetu in order to install the fence.’   

Here is an article in the local media describing the project.  Check back for more news about the remarkable activities by Virunga National Park, ICCN and Virunga Yetu in protecting endangered species such as mountain gorillas and elephants.   
 

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Tagua Takes Off - Episode 2

Back in June, I blogged my disagreement with any suggestion that tagua might not be a great substitute for animal ivory in fine jewelry.   It seems as if the angels were listening, because Vogue has just provided a very clear and positive answer.  Vogue Italia challenged 12 American jewelry designers to craft pieces from the ivory palm nut, and the incredible results are now available on 1stdibs.  Calling tagua the ‘ethical ivory’, Vogue hopes that Nut Ivory will soon be deemed precious for its beauty, and will play a significant role in the development of what they call ‘mindful luxury’.   

NiNi wholly supports these efforts to use Nuvory to craft jewelry and reduce overall demand for animal ivory.  We are so happy to learn that more and more jewelry designers are using their creativity to try to protect elephants.   After producing fine jewelry with the material for several years, we are convinced that Nuvory (or tagua, or whatever you wish to call it) is a perfect substitute for animal ivory – a natural, sustainable and compassionate alternative to elephant tusks.  And we are glad that the likes of Vogue Italia, 1stdibs and the 2017 US Protagonists agree.   

See if you do as well – view the results of the Vogue promotion here.  And check out the NiNi collection and other CdG jewelry incorporating Nuvory as well.   

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Doutzen Does it Again ... This time with Porter Magazine

She’s done it again – Deploying super(model) powers and building on the success of her ‘Knot On My Planet’ campaign, Doutzen Kroes has again made a big impact by linking the fashion and entertainment worlds to elephant conservation and protection.  Teaming up with Porter Magazine’s editor-in-chief Lucy Yeomans, Doutzen gathered industry icons in London under the banner of ‘Fashion for a Cause’.  A cover piece in Porter provided the backstory and set the stage to raise awareness and money for the Elephant Crisis Fund (a joint initiative of Save the Elephants and the Wildlife Conservation Network), while iconic jewelry house Tiffanys launched it’s ‘Save the Wild’ collection - profits from which will be donated to support anti-poaching, anti-trafficking and ivory demand reduction projects worldwide.   

(PS to Tiffanys:  NiNi has some great ideas about how to reduce demand for animal ivory by substituting a natural ivory which grows on trees.  Give us a call and we can talk more about why Nut Ivory is Not Ivory.  As a scenesetter, here’s what we said about KOMP last year.)

Congratulations to Doutzen and Lucy !  

 

 

Tagua Takes Off !

Very happy to see the mainstream media picking up on substitution as a part of answer in elephant protection.  Both BBC and the World Economic Forum have published pieces wondering ‘Could this Seed Save the Elephants?’ and showcasing tagua (another name for Nuvory®) as an ivory alternative.   NiNi has been saying it all along, and we are pleased to see the word is getting out.  Nut Ivory is Not Ivory !  

Of course, we disagree with any suggestion that this magical material is not sufficiently ‘exotic or exclusive’ to be a great alternative to animal ivory.  I may be missing something, but isn’t that the whole point?  Like elephant tusks, Nuvory comes from an exotic species which is critical to its ecosystem. But palm trees aren’t slaughtered when Nut Ivory is gathered.  The fact that something is natural and sustainable should be an attribute, not a negative.  Does a majestic beast need to die to make a work of jewelry desirable or beautiful?   Is ‘exclusivity’ simply a code for ‘we killed a rare animal to make this’?  If art and fashion need to be destructive to be valuable, then I want no part of it.  

Please, judge for yourself – check out some of our works of fine jewelry and wearable art featuring Nuvory® on our boutique or at 1stdibs.  We think you’ll agree that The Most Beautiful Ivory Grows on Trees !

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Elephants vs. People ... How to share a Habitat ?

Even without poaching, elephants and people threaten one another in central Africa.

Think of human encounters with an elephant and you may imagine something as charming as a tourist on a photo safari.   But as human populations in Africa grow and elephant populations move (and – in some places – grow), they regularly come into contact which can be competitive or destructive.   Despite efforts to make local populations value wildlife due to eco-tourism potential, a wild elephant in the neighborhood is not good news (unless it can be killed for bush meat before it destroys all the crops).  

Sometimes, protecting humans and protecting wildlife are competing priorities and a zero-sum game.   Check out this article for a vivid description of how conflicts can emerge from this competition for space and arable land. 
 

Deadly Serious Business

Sometimes we forget how deadly the poaching business has become.  And the bloody toll is not limited to the animals – it includes the people tasked to protect them.  Their work is very dangerous. Over 1000 rangers have been killed in the line of duty over the past decade.

Poaching operations have become militarized while international criminals have professionalized their jungle to workshop smuggling supply chain (which includes ‘laundering’ illegal products in a variety of ways to sneak it into the system). 

Whether it is Cambodian rangers protecting trees or Congolese rangers guarding elephants and mountain gorillas – these people are putting their lives on the line with poor equipment, poor pay/benefits and no insurance or safety net when something goes wrong.  Outgunned by poachers, their willingness to fight to save animals and habitats is evidence of a special sort of courage (or desperation).  

I read some of their stories here and learned a great deal about the varying conditions under which rangers operate here.  Sad to realize how huge amounts are spent on sexy high-tech solutions, while rangers are desperate for warm clothing, boots and better food.  As the head of an NGO supporting rangers put it: “There’s a huge amount of recognition for the illegal wildlife trade crisis, but not a huge amount for the people really doing the day-to-day work to stop it.”

Please remember that supporting the rangers is a key element to supporting elephants.  Please give generously – whether directly to organizations such as the Virunga National Park or the Thin Green Line Foundation, or indirectly by purchasing NiNi jewelry.  

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A bit of good news

Kenya based ‘Save the Elephants’ is reporting that the price for a kilogram of ivory has plunged to $700 over the past year.  This reflects reduced consumer demand and suggests that public advocacy efforts are gaining traction.  Of course, these prices still represent a fortune in the bush (where people survive on under a dollar a day) and are simply a return to 2010 levels. Until prices fall below 2002 levels (@$150/kg) the poaching will continue – emphasizing the ongoing need for elephant protection work.  But advocacy plus education plus conservation are having a positive effect. 

And how about substitution ?  According to Save the Elephants’ researchers in China, ‘many shops are replacing ivory jewelry with items made from alternative materials, such as clamshell’. 

Clamshell ?  …  I think I have a better idea …. Whether you call it Nuvory®, vegetal ivory, Nut Ivory, tree ivory or tagua, we believe that Nuvory® is the perfect alternative to elephant tusks - natural, sustainable, and compassionate.   So lets get the word out – The Most Beautiful Ivory Grows on Trees !  

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NiNi lights up Amsterdam

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Amsterdam lit up with Nuvory during the NiNi collection launch at renowned boutique Azzurro Due.   Our goal was to highlight the many ways Nuvory (which is what we call tagua) can be used in haute joaillerie, and to promote it as the natural, sustainable compassionate alternative to animal ivory.   Here are a few images from the event:

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#ChokeTheIvoryTrade

The politics of protecting elephants are byzantine.   There are (at least) 2 heartfelt and opposing views on every detail of how to address the problem.  Scientists argue whether forest and savanna elephants are separate species.  Governments spar over whether to burn or sell ivory stockpiles. Debates rage over whether to ban the animal ivory trade or to regulate it.  In some parts of Africa, growing elephant populations are are in increased contact - and conflict - with growing human populations and their very real needs.  Meanwhile, the killing spree continues, with violent extremists and criminal gangs slaughtering elephants, rhinos, and park rangers at an unprecedented rate. 

Many countries have taken action with domestic or international bans on animal ivory trade.  Others lag behind. The US and China have passed domestic bans on ivory trade, but the EU resists.  But the laws (many of which are full of elephant-sized loopholes) are only as good as the follow thru – and in many markets, lax enforcement or corruption to make the regulations irrelevant.

I try not to get too caught up in these debates.  They give me a headache.  I’ll leave it to the ‘experts’ to resolve their complex issues.  All I know is that whenever someone produces, buys or sells animal ivory, it gives oxygen to the system which kills elephants. 

It seems pretty straightforward to me.  If we cut off demand, the ‘invisible hand’ will protect pachyderms.  That is why we are working to #ChokeTheIvoryTrade.  We share our profits with conservation groups to finance park rangers, elephant protection patrols and community outreach programs.  We promote Nuvory® as a wholly natural, sustainable and compassionate alternative to animal ivory.  We have created a special collection to support NiNi’s campaign to end the ivory trade and, through Earth Day 2017, we will donate 100% of profits on NiNi chokers and bracelets to elephant protection activities.

Let’s not overcomplicate this.  Stop using animal ivory to make jewelry, fine arts, trinkets or luxury goods.  Stop buying and selling animal ivory.  If there is no market for elephant tusks, there is no incentive to continue the slaughter.

Show the elephants a little love this Valentine’s Day.  Shun animal ivory (and anyone who wears or sells it).  Speak out against elephant slaughter.  Sign the petition.  Wear Nuvory®.  Support NiNi.  Every little bit counts.  And remember that ‘only elephants need elephant tusks !’

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Nuvory featured at Vicenza Jewelry Fiera

The NiNi campaign and jewelry artist Geraldine van Amerom’s use of Nuvory® as an alternative to elephant tusks was featured in the Winter edition of VO+, the official magazine of Vicenzoro. This bi-annual event is the top European gathering of the jewelry world – and it was a great honor that NiNi and Nuvory® were recognized.  

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China's 'Happy New Year' Message for Elephants

The new year brings some good news on the anti-ivory front:  China has announced that it will be shutting down its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017.  Taken together with similar action in the US, this means that the ivory trade will be illegal in two of the world’s largest markets.   

The ban is being called a potential ‘game changer’ in the fight against poaching and it comes at a critical time in the battle to save the elephants.   We will have to see how it plays out - authorities will have to ‘walk the walk’ and to enforce the new rules strictly.  And there is the real concern that demand will just spill over into neighboring markets (such as Hong Kong, where the ban will not have effect). 
 
Nevertheless, we take our progress as it comes and applaud this as a big step in the right direction.  For more info about China’s action, see here and here
 

Here's how we can all help fight the ivory trade and save the elephants.

Elephants and ivory are in the news:  Kenya burns tons of tusks. Zimbabwe releases tons of tusks into the markets.  US expands the ban on animal ivory.  Surveys show a majority of Chinese think ivory comes from elephants who die of old age. CITES holds its worldwide convention the same month that the Great Elephant Census reports a 30%  population decline in just 7 years. Despite all the focus on the problem, it seems almost impossible to solve. And in the face of heavily armed poachers and multi-national smuggling organizations, I wonder ‘What could anything I do possibly have an impact ?’  

The feeling of helplessness is understandable – I have it when I think about many of the complex problems facing our world today.  ….  I am a mom, a jewelry designer and a wife living in suburban Netherlands.  What can I do ?’ 

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Well, I found my answer in a marvelous material called Nuvory which is featured in the jewelry and wearable art we create at Couleurs de Geraldine.  Nuvory is nut ivory – the fruit of a South American palm tree.  While playing around with different materials, I discovered it is a perfect substitute for animal ivory.

Then I learned that - in addition to being very beautiful - Nuvory is sustainable, compassionate and completely natural. That using nut-ivory can help preserve rain forests in South America and provide jobs and opportunities to surrounding communities. That by working with master artisans who make Nuvory jewelry in ateliers rather than factories, we can help preserve ancient traditions and provide livelihoods for artists practicing heritage crafts.  Slowly, I realized that I had been handed a gift – that Nuvory could be a vehicle for me to help address the ivory trade and the elephant crisis while having a positive impact in many other ways.  

 
 

This is why I am proud to announce ‘NiNi’ –  our campaign to eliminate animal ivory from high-end jewelry, fine art and luxury brands.  Standing for ‘Nut Ivory is Not Ivory’, NiNi’s efforts in Conservation, Advocacy, Substitution and Education combine to make the ‘C.A.S.E.’ against animal ivory.   

We appear to be at a critical juncture for the preservation of this remarkable species. NiNi proposes a number of actions that we can all take to help reduce supply and demand for animal ivory. For more information about NiNi, check out www.nuvory.org or ‘NiNi’ on Facebook.  For more info on CdG, please see www.cdgstyle.com or ‘CouleursdeGeraldine’ on Facebook.

They say that an elephant never forgets – so don’t you forget that there is an alternative to animal ivory which can help to save elephants and rain forests and to support local communities and traditional artists.  Remember … ‘Nut Ivory is NOT Ivory’.

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They say 'Timing is Everything'

We’d been working on NiNi - our anti-ivory campaign for months.  But I in addition to my responsibilities as ‘founder and chief designer’ of a start-up jewelry brand, I am a mom, a wife, a friend.  Driving kids, jewelry sales.  Grocery shopping, media events, cooking, networking, designing new models, parent-teacher conferences and visits to the atelier in Italy.  Not to mention my favorites … doing laundry and taxes.  There is never enough time.  So NiNi's launch slipped to the ‘to-do over the summer’ list.  But when trying to fix the date, we thought ‘Why launch in the summer holidays, when no one is paying attention?  Why not wait for back to school?’  So we decided to wait until early September.  But the website wasn’t ready (anyone who has put together a website knows how that works…) and we thought ‘Why compete for attention with NY Fashion Week, Clinton Global Initiative’s elephant events or the CITES Conference in South Africa?  Let’s hold off until the end of the month, when everyone will already be talking elephants and ivory and our new angle of featuring Nuvory as an alternative to animal ivory will be a real news story.   

Then – right at the start of NYFW - came ‘KnotOnMyPlanet’ – a spectacular, wonderful anti-ivory campaign packing the firepower of some of the world’s best known musicians, models & actors, run by top communications professionals and mobilizing amazing brands such as Tiffanys.  KOMP is going to be great for elephants, but was it going to make it seem that NiNi was a copycat or that CdG was jumping on the latest cause celebre ?   We wondered if our tagline should change to ‘Nut Ivory is Knot Ivory’ (jk).  The anti-ivory movement was growing - better, bigger and stronger -  but we wondered if NiNi was redundant – if we should scrap the whole idea.  On reflection, we realized that while NiNi is totally complementary to other efforts such as JointheHerd, KOMP and 96 Elephants …. we had something special to offer as well.   I mean, we have a natural alternative to animal ivory which can help elephants, rain forests, local communities and traditional artists.  Definitely worth the effort to get the word out.

So we'll keep at it.  We've joined the thousands who have contributed to KOMP.  We will continue our efforts to raise awareness about Nuvory and our work to end the trade in animal ivory.    We are reaching out to celebrities who have demonstrated they care about elephants to offer them yet another way to lend their name and voice to save elephants.  And we continue to believe that our little NiNi campaign has something unique to offer –the use of Nuvory as a natural, sustainable, compassionate substitute for animal ivory.  

So remember …

The Most Beautiful Ivory Grows on Trees ! 
Only Elephants Need Elephant Tusks’ 
And most importantly, that each of us can do something, because every little bit helps. 

x/Geraldine