Tiffany & Co. has been inspired by nature since its earliest days, from the floral motifs of Victorian tabletop to the whimsical insect clips popularized by Jean Schlumberger in the 1950s. Elsa Peretti’s Starfish jewelry and the exotic flora and fauna in the 2017 Blue Book Collection are contemporary examples of the way Tiffany’s reverence for the natural world is woven into the very DNA of its design aesthetic. So it is not surprising that the company is as devoted to protecting the environment as it is to creating beautiful objects. Tiffany does this by promoting responsible diamond, gemstone and precious metal sourcing; working to protect special areas such as Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and Bristol Bay, Alaska; striving to ensure that its iconic Blue Boxes and bags are made from sustainable or recycled paper; and promoting the health and well-being of the global communities in which it sources materials. Tiffany has also championed the environment via grants awarded through The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, which was established in 2000 to preserve the world’s most treasured landscapes and seascapes.
Tiffany partnered with the Elephant Crisis Fund on the #KnotOnMyPlanet campaign featuring models such as Linda Evangelista, Doutzen Kroes, Christy Turlington Burns and Naomi Campbell tying a knot to never forget elephants and to help raise awareness for the threat posed by ivory poachers. Some good news: China recently announced that they would ban all commercial ivory trading in 2017.
Anisa Kamadoli Costa, chief sustainability officer at Tiffany and chairman and president of The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, sat down with Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, to discuss his tireless efforts on behalf of these magnificent creatures and what we can all do to help.
ANISA KAMADOLI COSTA: Iain, I want to start off by saying that I’m a big fan of your work. You have made such a significant impact on wildlife conservation efforts through Save the Elephants and the Knot on My Planet campaign. How did you first become interested in zoology?
DR. DOUGLAS-HAMILTON: Well, my father was killed in the war, and I had a wonderful South African stepfather. We went to live in South Africa, where he read me fascinating stories about wildlife. I knew by the age of 10 that my life was going to be flying around Africa working with animals.
AKC: What was your first experience meeting an elephant in the wild?
IDH: When I was about nine, my mother took me to Kruger National Park, and we saw an elephant about half a mile away, and it was a big thrill. There it was, drinking at the pool. My first real in-depth experience came when I was about 22 and went to the Serengeti as a summer intern working with wildlife.
AKC: And what moved you to establish the elephant survey and the conservation program back in 1976?
IDH: I spent a blissful five years living with the elephants and writing my thesis, but then the price of ivory increased hugely between 1969 and 1970. People had started poaching elephants in Kenya. It was obvious that somebody needed to look at that. So I switched from behavior studies to looking at how many elephants were in Africa, and could they withstand the impact of the increasing ivory trade? Early in the ’80s was really the holocaust for elephants. Then we had the first ivory trade ban from 1989 through 2009 and more or less had a cease-fire for the next 20 years, before the poaching got out of hand once again.
AKC: Why do you think we were able to achieve that degree of success and have these poaching issues come back again in full force decades later?