Ever since I was little, I have been told that I was to go to school, then go to college, then get a job, and then retire. And that is how many people live their lives, which is completely fine. This mindset, however, can be limiting when kids and teens who want to make change earlier in their lives don't get the support they need.
Two years ago, I felt empty and bored with doing the same old schoolwork every day of my life for eight consecutive years at the time.
Then one day, I was sitting on the couch at home watching The Ivory Game, a documentary that revealed the complexities of the elephant poaching crisis and the ivory trading market. I remember crying and reaching for tissues as I watched an elephant rot after it was slaughtered for its ivory. I remember hearing a voice deep inside of me, calling out to me, telling me I had to change this problem.
Well here I am on the same couch two years later typing up an opinion piece, except this time around, I am 15 and the founder of Ivory Tees, an online clothing company that raises money to help save the elephants. What started as a little passion project of mine, turned into something much bigger when I started high school.
I realized that in this day and age with social media, we, whether you’re young or old, have the power to start movements on our own. Whether it’s small ripples or big waves.
In the past few years, I realized many of my friends and classmates were interested in helping the elephants with me. Since then, we’ve done photoshoots together and helped raise awareness about the elephant poaching crisis through social media so that Ivory Tees can reach its goal of helping end the immoral killing of elephants for ivory. I am very grateful for everyone who has supported Ivory Tees thus far.
With every journey, however, comes its challenges. A big issue that I have to be honest with you about is getting more individuals to want to be apart of the future we, Ivory Tees, envision where elephants and nature are protected and where humans become one with nature, not the villain to nature. Our sweatshirts and T-shirts are a symbol of this future, and I strongly urge you to join our mission.
On the flip side, Ivory Tees has had some successes as well. So far, Ivory Tees has fostered two baby elephant orphans through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), which is an organization dedicated to protecting the future of elephants and other wildlife. The DSWT has allowed us to fund the care of elephants that were victims of poaching. For example, our most recent fostered elephant Enkesha was stuck in a poacher’s wire snare with her trunk hanging by a thread. Fortunately, this dedicated organization was able to rescue Enkesha and resew her trunk back together.
This year, I hope that Ivory Tees can sell enough T-shirts to help fund anti-poaching technologies, such as conservation drones with thermographic cameras that can keep track of where elephants are and catch poachers. This technology would make it a lot cheaper, easier, and safer for anti-poaching units in the field.
The future of the elephants and Mother Nature is in our hands, your hands. Best put by National Geographic: “In a world of 7 billion, we need to start recognizing that we are not separate from nature. When we see ourselves as part of the landscape and part of nature, then saving nature is really about saving ourselves.”
It’s up to you to decide if you want to join us in our fight to save the elephants. Visit our website, buy a shirt, help save an elephant.
Angelina Lue, a Los Altos High sophomore and animal rights advocate, is the 15-year-old founder of Ivory Tees, an online clothing company that raises money to help save the elephants. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].