^ Photo: Courtesy of David Yarrow. Film by Kire Godal, words written and spoken by Natasha Illum Berg
We are losing the African elephant

Ivory Black Foundation is a smart, agile, private wildlife foundation dedicated to help saving the African elephant. We believe in the power of reducing public demand for ivory through non-traditional, hard-hitting campaigns. IBF grew out of two people’s numerous, first hand experiences of having seen countless herds of elephants slaughtered by poachers in the African bush, and realizing that the number of wild elephants is now going down more rapidly than ever.

There are less than 450,000 African elephants living in the wild today. This may sound like a fairly high number, but not when you know that around 30,000 are poached every year. That is one every 15 minutes. In some countries and areas, the elephant population has collapsed already. Since 2010 the killing has been happening at such a speed that your children may never get the chance to see African elephants in the wild.

Why do we have a clue?
Ivory Black Foundation is based on the personal experiences of co-founders Natasha Illum Berg and Torben Wind.

Natasha has lived and worked in the bush in Tanzania for a quarter of a century. The down to earth facts and reality of the matter is what burns her eyes and surrounds her home. Natasha walks where the elephants walk. She knows from how far you can smell a carcass. And she has lost friends to the bullets of poachers.

Torben has spent many months travelling and exploring the African bush. His engagement is caused by his close encounters with reality, rather than mere empathy. In his professional life, Torben also has a lot of experience in turning good ideas into solid results.

Having dealt directly with poachers, conservation and game departments inside Africa, we conclude that the fast track to stop the poaching is by halting the demand for ivory. We truly believe it can be done. But we have to act now.

”We are half-gods on Earth, but it seems to me we are some kind of half-god lepers. We can lose a foot and not know it, until we fall flat on our face.”
- Natasha Illum Berg

The reason why we are here

In 2010, hell hit the African wilderness in the form of a crazed elephant poaching tsunami. A new, wealthier and insatiable Asian market started demanding endless supplies of ivory art, jewellery and trinkets.

With a sudden and fast growing presence of Chinese nationals all over Africa, due to China’s increased involvement in African infrastructure projects, ivory poaching increased exponentially. Ever since – and continuing steadily – the situation has become worse and worse.

An elephant genocide.
From one moment to the next, some of the world’s most pristine wilderness has taken on the stench of an elephant genocide. Since 2010, the forest elephant of West and Central Africa has declined up to 80%. Mozambique has lost 50% of its elephants. Tanzania has lost over 65% - in certain areas, the population has already collapsed completely. Poachers are moving like termites across the African continent, wiping out the elephants one by one, herd by herd.

”It can’t be that bad?!”
Man has a tendency to become anti-apocalyptic when told of an impending disaster. It is an understandable coping mechanism – but it is also the reason why things end up the way they do. And this time, it actually is ”that bad”.


The numbers of elephants have been going down steadily for many years, but this new demand for ivory has taken the poaching to an entirely new level of speed and efficiency.

The reason why we are here

Photo: Getty Images

The reason why we are here

Courtesy of Frank af Petersens

^ Photo: Istock
The demand is key

There are so many giant nature foundations out there, all doing a lot of great work. But although multiple efforts have been done both inside and outside Africa lately to end elephant poaching, it is as blossoming as ever. The elephant population continues to decline. There is clearly still a strong market of ivory buyers, and this market is the target of our silver bullet.

Ivory Black Foundation concentrates on the root cause: The consumers. Through alternative, radical and informative campaigns, we aim to help change consumer attitudes and reduce this unsustainable demand for ivory.

Time and money well spent.
We are agile, stubborn and united. We engage with the boldest creative minds in the arts, business and world leadership, pushing new and innovative ideas. Due to the fact that we are small and private, we are able to act swiftly, from a fresh angle and without any ”big machine heavy wheel turning” time loss.

Every minute, every day counts, and so does every penny. We have no administrative costs. 100% of all donated money goes straight into work.

The demand is key

The demand is key

”There are things you have to do, even if they are dangerous, because otherwise you are not a human being, but just a bit of filth.”
- The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren

A glimpse of the horrors we have seen

We, Natasha Illum Berg and Torben Wind, both have experienced the African elephant poaching first hand. We have come across entire herds that have been annihilated, with tusk-less infants left to wander off into the yonder, or to circle their dead family groups until they too die.

It is a pretty harsh realization when the carcass of the youngest in the herd is much fresher than its mother, or when finding a young calf elephant stuck and dead in a mud hole nearby, driven there by thirst. Eventually, it becomes a relief to see lions feasting on an orphan calf, as it means the end of suffering to the last survivor of the herd.

Human lives get shattered too.
The poachers will not hesitate one second to kill anyone who gets in their way. Natasha has lost several friends and colleagues to elephant poachers. It is easy for hungry middlemen to take advantage of people who are in desperate need of money or have a background in war-torn areas like Rwanda and make them commit heinous crimes with the prospect of an income.

Safari no more?
Millions of people travel to Africa each year. Many of those have shortlisted the most important reasons for choosing this destination, and seeing an elephant is a popular feature on even the shortest of shortlists. The elephant is one of the ground-pillars of African tourism economy, with the millions of jobs that come with that. Poachers still don’t go where the mass tourism goes, but if the killing continues at the current speed, the famous African safari will soon be a thing of the past. Yet again, this struggling continent is wounded and humiliated as one of its greatest symbols of strength is robbed and carried off in the night.

A glimpse of the horrors we have seen

Courtesy of Kire Godal

A glimpse of the horrors we have seen

Photo: Natasha Illum Berg

^ Courtesy of Kire Godal
We have all done it

Pre 20th century, during the colonization of Africa, 800-1,000 tons of ivory was sent to Europe. By the 1970s, Japan absorbed 40% of the global trade. Another 40% was consumed by Europe and North America. China, yet to become the economic force of today, demanded only small amounts, just enough to keep its skilled carvers in business, ivory carving being one of China’s oldest arts.

Many countries and cultures are no longer interested in ivory – partly because of bans, and partly because of a change in attitude towards nature and wildlife.

What is happening with ivory nowadays?
70-80% of all ivory goes to China, where it is used for art, jewellery, trinkets and raw investment. Furthermore, for thousands of years, Chinese culture has cultivated the beliefs that ivory brings strength, protection and prosperity. On top of that, many people in China are unaware that you need to kill an elephant to get the ivory, thinking that elephants fell their tusks – just like deer fell their antlers every year.

It can seem like an almost unsurmountable task to have any influence on a culture so individual, but in a historical perspective it is only two minutes ago, the western world made piano keys and billiard balls from fresh ivory. We humans are really not so different after all, and history shows that cultures do change.

We determine the future.
The desire for ivory was responsible for wiping out elephants in North Africa about 1,000 years ago, in much of South Africa in the 19th century and some parts of West Africa by the end of the 20th century. In certain areas of Africa, elephants are already extinct – living proof that man has no problem killing the last elephant he comes across.

But there is a big difference between extinguishing a population in a certain region, or country, and actually wiping a species off the surface of Earth. This time, we cannot move towards positive change fast enough. We welcome China to come on-board this boat now before the last elephants of Africa disappear.

Rette graf decline 1440x1000

”You might think: Just me doing something is not going to matter much. That is just bizarre, for you yourself completely trust the power of a few invisible molecules every day.”
- Natasha Illum Berg

^ Courtesy of Frank af Petersens

”We stay away from Disneyfication. Disney takes nature out of man and in turn makes nature human. This is not how the next generation will make balanced, intelligent and realistic decisions in conservation.”

- Natasha Illum Berg

There is much to do in conservation

There is absolutely no doubt that the main threat to all endangered species is loss of habitat and human behaviour towards this fact. We are now 7,4 billion people (and still counting), and the more human beings, the less clean space for animals. We as humans will have to deal with our overpopulation one way or another, or all work in conservation will simply be the work of Sisyphus.

The world is in serious need of firefighters.
At Ivory Black Foundation we are fully aware of our planet’s long-term problem with overpopulation. However, this is a long-term issue, and during that period of time, we can loose some of the world’s most majestic, intelligent creatures if we do not put out raging fires. We simply must do all in our power to preserve as many animal species as possible, while the undeniable truth takes its time to sink into the thought and action patterns of mankind.

A final thought.
We do not think that saving the African elephant is solely up to Africa, nor that it is a problem that belongs to Asia only. Any single person who has ever read Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, any single person who marvels at the beauty of living on a planet with such spectacular animals, should not ignore this.

Nature is always perfection balancing on the sharpest edge of a blade. Balance is be all or end all. Not ever end all for nature, of course, but the end of nature as we know it – for instance, a place where elephants exist.

Projects

Together with carefully chosen creative partners we work out different and innovative projects that we believe have the ability to dissuade the buyer of ivory, be that for reasons of conscience, economics or fashion.  Whether through art, religion, political pressure, or "un vogue-ing", our course of action is in the direction of hard-hitting events and happenings - social media and film being important tools. For details on the very projects we are working on right now, please do contact us directly.

”To take the white tusk of an elephant, burn it to smithereens and make this into the deepest, black pigment used in some of the most adored paintings known to humankind. Now, is that not typical of man?”

- Torben Wind

Ivory Black Foundation

Is dedicated to saving the African elephant by changing consumer attitudes and reducing public demand for ivory.
Ivory Black Foundation is co-founded by Natasha Illum Berg and Torben Wind.

The story behind the name
“Ivory black” refers to the deep velvety black found in the background of Rembrandt’s portraits.
Ivory Black (PBk9) was invented by the Romans as a general purpose black and for the best grades, pure ivory was burned.

Co-founders

Natasha Illum Berg

Since 1993 Natasha has lived and worked in East Africa, mainly Tanzania, where she now lives in the foothills of Mount Meru with her daughter.

Natasha is a conservationist, a professional buffalo hunter and the author of 5 books published in 9 languages. She also gives talks to wide audiences around the world on man’s place in nature as she sees it.

Natasha was born and brought up in the county of Blekinge in Sweden on the family hunting and conservation estate, Eriksberg. 

At the age of 22, Natasha left for Tanzania to become a professional hunter of buffalo as well as involved in conservation. She eventually became East Africa’s only female professional hunter and the only female full member of the African Professional Hunters Association.

The pen always in her back pocket, she also started publishing books. However, as much as she loves (and always will love) being on the track of a buffalo, her driving force is her general love and feeling of responsibility for nature as a whole.

In 2012 Natasha came back to Tanzania from having been away whilst bringing her daughter into the world. The horrors she saw in the way of an elephant genocide created by poachers made her make a solemn promise to not let this go until she had done what she could to fight back. It was then, on a safari with Torben Wind – a man sharing her attitude towards conservation – the journey of Ivory Black Foundation began. 

Natasha Illum Berg website

Torben Wind

Torben Wind is an entrepreneur, conservationist, hunter and art aficionado. He co-founded the software company Navision, acquired by Microsoft in 2002.

He lives in Copenhagen and from here he likes to get involved with innovative projects, passion and tenacity being driving factors. Torben also has a strong interest in contemporary art. His curiosity has grown to a level where he today takes great pleasure in exploring and supporting art.

Torben is an avid explorer at heart, who has had the fortune to be able to travel extensively and for long periods of time, to some of the most remote, exciting and challenging places our earth has to offer, not least the African continent. To connect with nature and to meet exceptional people are the main reasons for his intrepid journeys.

A childhood with bow and arrow, far from the big city, did awaken his appreciation of nature. Around 2012, a series of dramatic experiences in Africa made him realise the need for immediate elephant conservation action. While on a two-week walk in the bush in Cameroon, poachers crossed the border on horseback with automatic weapons and slaughtered 300 elephants in the adjacent Bouba N’Djida National Park. In the Luangwa Valley in Zambia, he was shot at when trying to help catch a group of poachers. Torben himself has, on several occasions, seen horrifying scenes of slaughtered elephants. The massacre he witnessed with Natasha in Tanzania, however, was particularly brutal, terrifying and depressingly sad.

Patrons

Nicolai Frahm

Nicolai Frahm


Is a London-based Danish art collector, advisor and co-founder of the Dairy Art Centre, a non-profit contemporary art institution in London. Frahm is also the vice-chairman of the Blenheim Art Foundation and associated with various public and private museums and major private art collections around the world. He has often given insight to the art market on various news media.

Michael Frahm

Michael Frahm


Is a London-based Danish art collector, advisor and the Director of Blenheim Art Foundation at Blenheim Palace in England. Frahm is furthermore involved with some of the most celebrated artists and prolific collections in the world. He is an expert in the Asian art market and has been a frequent art commentator.

Competence Partners

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Name of Bank: Danske Bank
SWIFT/BIC: DABADKKK
IBAN: DK1830000011856071
Registration number: 9570
Account number: 11856071

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^ Courtesy of Frank af Petersens