Worldwide march against elephant, rhino extinction draws thousands (PHOTOS)

People from at least 136 cities across six continents have marched to press their countries’ authorities to stop the poaching of elephants and rhinos, a practice that has almost led to their extinction.

“Unless action is taken now, we will lose these majestic, highly-intelligent and emotionally-sentient creatures FOREVER,”says the statement from the official page of Global March for Elephants and Rhinos.

Every nine to 11 hours a rhino “is slaughtered…for its horn” and one elephant is killed every 15 minutes, according to the organizers of the global event.

“Their only hope for survival lies in an immediate end to the ivory and rhino horn trade (both ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’) and the chance to recover from decades of mass slaughter,” the site says.

Protesters march across 42nd Street during the official Global March for Elephants and Rhinos rally in New York on October 4, 2014 (Reuters / Timothy A. Clary)

The marches were held worldwide in the cities in the USA, Canada, Mexico and Australia. In Europe, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Copenhagen and London also took part in the demonstration. Many rallies were also held in the cities of Africa and South America.

Only in South Africa the protesters against elephants and rhinos extinction gathered in 17 cities.

"We are protesting against the political leaders of the world, who do not have the guts and political will to make changes in their laws," Dex Kotze, one of the march’s organizers, told AFP.

Protesters hold a sign reading "Let's protect wildlife" as they take part in a demonstration in Paris as part of the Global March for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions on October 4, 2014 (AFP Photo / Alain Jocard)

According to Kotze, people have to gather for the demonstration "for our future generation," as from 27 million elephants 350 years ago, Africa now has only 400,000, and 9 percent of them are being killed annually.

"The youth today is making a statement globally in 136 cities that it's their heritage that is being killed," he said.

Several hundred people came to the streets of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

"We don't want to wait until the day that there is one elephant standing in Kenya. We want to take action now," said Nyokabi Gethaiga, founder of the Let Live Movement.

Jamey Ponte, co-organizer of Kenyan march in, told AFP that there are steps that authorities can take to make a difference.

People carrying placards calling for the end to the ivory trade walk through the streets of Stellenbosch during the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos in Cape Town on October 4, 2014 (AFP Photo / Jennifer Bruce)

The Kenyan Port of Mombasa "is the number one exporter of ivory in the world - second is Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - and there's no reason for it," he said. "Obviously, the government says they're against poaching here, but it’s one port. There's no reason why we can't clean that up and stop that export."

New York and Washington also saw Global Marches for Elephants and Rhinos. The demonstrators were carrying placards outside the White House with the words, "Say No Ivory" and "Save the Elephant."

Poaching of elephants and rare animals in Africa is increasing. The products are sold to Asian countries where elephants’ tusks are used in medicine.

The rally highlighted so-called ‘gang of 19’ singled out by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention) as not doing enough to tackle the illegal ivory trade, added Kotze.

He said that China, Vietnam, Laos, Mozambique, Angola and Kenya raise high concerns. They are major players in the ivory trade either as source, transit or destination countries.

“China is the biggest consumer of ivory (70 percent of the world’s ivory ends up as trinkets for the Chinese middle class), and Vietnam is the main consumer of rhino horn,” said the statement.

"These countries need to change their laws," he said, urging China to shut its 130 retail outlets and 37 ivory carving factories.

According to Kotze, the wildlife crime is estimated $20 billion a year and terrorist organizations like Al-Shabaab are using ivory trafficking and exchange ivory for weapons.

“The problem has become a global one, as transnational criminal networks and heavily armed poaching gangs coordinate the bloody chain – from killing the animals, to smuggling their body parts for export, to selling them in outlets all over the world,” says the statement from the Global Match for Elephants and Rhinos website.