COUNTYWIDE : Her Work Is Not an Ivory-Tower Project

By day, Ava Park runs a profitable business producing brochures for the corporate jungle of county law firms.

By night, she runs a nonprofit group concerned with elephants being slaughtered in Africa for their tusks.

Park is founder of Orange County People for Animals, a Costa Mesa-based animal rights group trying to keep ivory on elephants and off of store shelves.

A mailer she wrote for the 700 county residents on her mailing list says: "By the time you have finished reading this letter, an elephant will have died. . . . Three hundred more will be killed by tomorrow morning."

According to Park, 100,000 elephants are slaughtered in Africa each year to supply the booming, largely illegal ivory trade. More than half of the estimated 1.5 million elephants that were living 10 years ago are dead; the remainder could be killed in 10 more years.

"People can live without ivory; elephants can't," Park said. "To decimate a species as wonderful as the elephant for the sake of a bangle bracelet or billiard ball is cruel and unreasonable."

Park, 33, president of the Carpenter & Park brochure business in Santa Ana, said that until three years ago she was a "tremendously conservative person."

"I'd never protested anything, not even the Vietnam War," she said. "One day I read an article about animal rights and asked my secretary to look into it. I was truly appalled and made it my job."

Now Park joins demonstrations across Southern California. She was arrested in April during a protest against cat experiments at UCLA.

Orange County People for Animals joined other groups in successfully petitioning the U.S. government to propose a ban on ivory trading among the 101 nations belonging to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

At a meeting of that convention in Switzerland last month, delegates from more than 60 countries, including the United States, agreed to join a boycott of ivory, said Mike Coffey, wildlife inspector for the Interior Department.

Importing ivory into the United States will be illegal beginning in January, except for scientific research. How other nations comply with the treaty is up to them.

"But five African nations declared they would continue to sell tusks," Park said. "Officially, (ivory) can't be brought in (to the United States) any more, but that doesn't mean it won't be sold. Only a worldwide boycott by buyers will save the elephant."

Judy Stricker, president of Society Against Vivisection in Costa Mesa, has also worked hard to gather thousands of petitions to have the elephant protected.

Stricker, 56, said her group has more than 10,000 people on its mailing list, about a third of them living in the county.

"These people are from all walks of life," Stricker said. "More and more people here are beginning to understand these issues. We're involved with the entire planet, because without the animals, there'd be no humans."

Other county groups campaigning for elephants include Hunt Saboteurs, an Anaheim-based group that harasses bison hunters, and People for Reason in Science and Medicine, also based in Anaheim.

Not everyone campaigning for elephants belongs to a formal organization.

Nancy Duesenberg, a Newport Beach art dealer and interior designer, is planning a trip to Africa in March with her husband, Curt Fleming, a commercial real estate agent. They plan to meet with elephant experts before returning here to campaign for money and educate people about boycotting ivory.

Duesenberg became involved when she read a magazine article about an elephant orphanage outside of Nairobi that adopts baby elephants whose families have been killed for tusks.

"It was the straw that broke the camel's back," she said. "What hit me was not as much the extinction aspect as the horrific level that man is getting away with here. They are machine-gunning down families for greed and vanity."

People who own ivory, she said, "should not show it to anyone--it should be collecting dust at the bottom of a drawer. Every piece of ivory is a direct cause of anguish and suffering."

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