Speaking up for Elephants: Reflections on Vermont’s Ivory Sales Ban Hearing

Taegen Yardley at home researching elephants on her computer.

“In a world where everything feels like it is moving at the speed of light, slowing down and watching an elephant in its natural habitat is calming and shows us the importance of paying attention to the natural world.”

Taegen Yardley at home researching elephants on her computer. Photo courtesy of Kristen Yardley

That opinion came from 12-year-old Taegen Yardley, a sixth grader at Endeavour Middle School in Shelburne, Vermont, on April 8 when she testified before Vermont’s House Committee on Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources in support of a proposed state ban on ivory and rhino horn sales (H.297). Twenty of her classmates filled the ornate room to listen and show support.

See related article, on “Citizens Spur States to Ban Trade in Ivory and Rhino Horn.”

As I gazed around the room, I could almost see her words lift and empower both the legislators and the public audience.

Taegen testifying and getting questioned by committee.
Taegen Yardley testifying and being questioned by the hearing committee. Photo by Laurel Neme

“I will never be able to see an African Western Black Rhino,” she said. “They officially became extinct in 2011. I don’t ever want to be able to say the same about elephants.”

Members of the committee nodded in agreement.

What World Will We Leave Our Children?

As much as the hearing was about H.297, it was also about the world we’re going to leave our children. And it was about speaking up when you care about an issue.

That day, Jon Fishman, drummer for the rock band Phish, became the first well-known musician to testify at a state hearing to restrict ivory sales. He did so in part at the urging of his children, who go to school with Yardley and share her passion, and in —> Read More