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August 27, 2009

Stop Elephant Poaching: Ban Ivory Trade

Posted by : admin
Filed under : General Green
Ivory belongs to elephants (image from exfordy on Flickr)

Ivory belongs to elephants: ban ivory trade (image from exfordy on Flickr)

Twenty years ago, the international community bonded together to ban ivory trade.  Yet wildlife officials in Kenya still discover African elephant slaughter at the hands of poachers due to some exceptions to the ban.  The Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species (CITES), officially banned ivory trade in 1989, but also has permitted countries to periodically participate in ivory sales.

In Kenya’s national parks, scores of elephants have been killed for their tusks.  Just in the past two years, hundreds have been slaughtered.  Recently, Kenyan Wildlife Authorities seized $1 million of ivory tusks that had been bound for Asian markets.  Sadly, ivory is still in demand, and that demand is rising.  Unless and until ivory sales are made illegal worldwide – without exception – the barbaric elephant poaching will continue, threatening the survival of the African elephants.

image from digitalART2 on Flickr

Stop elephant poaching (image from digitalART2 on Flickr)

Despite the 20-year ivory trade ban, the permitted legal ivory sales stand as a gaping loophole.  Not surprisingly, with some sales classified as “legal,” demand for ivory has been rising, even as number of African elephants are in decline.  The African elephant has a current estimated population of about 500,000, down from about 1.2 million in 1979.  That’s over 50% decline in just 30 years.

Black market prices for ivory drive the continued elephant poaching, with hundreds of the beasts being killed each year only for their tusks.  The prices for the rare commodity are astounding:  poachers can be rewarded with as much as $3,000 per kilogram of ivory on the black market.

To state the obvious: If there was no legal market for ivory, demand for it would go down.

image from wwarby on Flickr

Its time to ban ivory trade – completely (image from wwarby on Flickr)

Ivory has was long used for a number of familiar goods, including piano keys, billiard balls and Scottish bagpipes – even false teeth! Today, of course, synthetic ivory substitutes are used instead.  Amazingly, ivory from extinct mammoths is sometimes used too, although there are limited supplies (of course), and because it does not threaten the survival of a living species, it is tolerated.

So why have there been exceptions to the ban on elephant ivory trade?  CITES carved out limited legal sales in part due to demand of African countries that claim the trade is necessary for economic reasons and to reduce unchecked animal populations.  However, most of the money made from the legal sale of ivory does not help the residents of these nations.  Instead, vendors and middlemen are the ones getting rich.  Still, the UN-backed CITES partially lifted the ivory trade ban in 2002, in order to allow a few nations to export limited amounts of ivory.

We cannot save elephants as long as any sales of ivory is permitted. Legalizing ivory trade in any African nation endangers elephants across the continent because poachers will attempt to launder illegal ivory with legal stockpiles.

image from wwarby on Flickr

We need to band together to save elephants (image from wwarby on Flickr)

Sadly, an ivory auction was recently conducted with tons of ivory sold to Chinese and Japanese bidders. And, it was sanctioned by CITES – the very group that first adopted a ban on ivory trade.  I believe that the auction has whet the appetites of consumers who will continue to demand more ivory, unless a change in policy is made.

This is where you come in.  You can help save the elephants by signing an online petition.  Pleas add your name to the list of people urging international leaders to support a complete ban on ivory trade.  Even better, write directly to the UN and your elected officials.  Tell them that we cannot stop elephant poaching if any legal sales of ivory are permitted.

Can you be inspired to help save elephants and support a ban on ivory trade?  Why not consider these magnificent animals.

image from Matt and Kim Rudge on Flickr

image from Matt and Kim Rudge on Flickr

image from .ledi on Flickr

image from .ledi on Flickr

The plight of the elephants is one that should concern us all.  But why?

As intelligent beings, we have responsibility to be caretakers for other inhabitants of the Earth.  If you live thousands of miles from Africa or Asia (as I do), you may not feel directly impacted by the significant reduction in numbers of elephants.  Yet, as species after species are threatened by our actions – or our failure to act – the unnecessary depletion of other living creatures reflects poorly on our stewardship.  It diminishes us, as well.

Sadly, elephants that survive a poaching attack are profoundly affected for the rest of their lives.  In a National Geographic article, the lingering effects on the herd are described:

“An African elephant never forgets – especially when it comes to the loss of its kin,” according to researchers at the University of Washington. Their findings, published online in the journal Molecular Ecology, reveal that the negative effects of poaching persist for decades after the killing has ended.

“Our study shows that it takes a long time – upwards of 20 years – for a family who has lost its kin to rebuild,” said lead researcher Kathleen Gobush, a research ecologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency and a former doctoral student at the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology.

Beyond the unnecessary killing of elephants, you should also be outraged by the fact that African nations are misled to believe ivory trade should continue because of economic reasons.  Yet, citizens are not benefiting financially from the sale of ivory.  While some of the profits are used to fund elephant conservation programs, ironically, legal trade of ivory increases the incentives for illegal poaching and “ivory laundering” into legal stockpiles.  Moreover, African tourism relies on the keystone elephant species. As the International Fund for Animal Welfare noted:

“To toy with that is to toy with the livelihoods of the citizens within these poor African nations.”

It truly is a case of poorer people getting taken advantage of by those in power, at their own expense.

Finally, there is a global ripple effect  from attempting to justify continued ivory trade.  Asian elephants, like their African counterparts, are also being killed off as a result of an ivory boom in Vietnam.  In Vietnam, only about 150 elephants remain in the wild.

Can we continue to allow this to happen?  Should we?

image from on Flickr

image from on Flickr

You can make a difference to stop elephant poaching.  Don’t forget.  Sign the petition to ban ivory trade.

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