July 07, 2014
Ironic ivory? Ivory trinkets carved into elephants, potentially from butchered wild elephants. Picture taken in the Jatujak weekend market, Thailand in 2014. Photo by: Naomi Doak/TRAFFIC.
"The average price paid by craftsmen or factory owners, for good quality, privately-owned 1-4 kilograms elephant tusks in Beijing in early 2014 was $2,100 per kilogram," said Esmond Martin, who conducted a survey in May along with Lucy Vigne. "The average price for similar tusks in 2010 was $750 per kilogram."
According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), last year at least 20,000 elephants were killed in Africa. This is a slight decline from a high of 25,000 in 2011. However other conservation groups believe far more elephants are being killed. For example, Save the Elephants puts the number at 33,000 every year between 2010-2012.
No one really knows exactly how many elephants have been killed since poaching began to rise again in the mid-2000s, nor how many are left in Africa. But conservationists say the number is clearly unsustainable.
"Without concerted international action to reduce the demand for ivory measures to reduce the killing of elephants for ivory will fail," said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants. "Although half a world away, China holds the key to the future of the African elephant."
Blood bracelets? These ivory bracelets may have come from elephants killed in the wild. Picture taken in the Jatujak weekend market, Thailand in 2014. Photo by: Naomi Doak/TRAFFIC.
China remains the world's largest market for ivory. Although the country has made some efforts in recent years to curb the illegal trade, conservationists say its not moving fast enough.
A different report, from anti-wildlife trade group TRAFFIC, also uncovered a worrying trend for elephants. Researchers found that in just the amount of ivory products for sale in Thailand's capital, Bangkok, nearly tripled in just 18 months, from 5,865 items in January 2013 to 14,512 this May.
"Thailand's efforts to regulate local ivory markets have failed," Naomi Doak, TRAFFIC's Co-ordinator for the Greater Mekong region, starkly stated. "It is time for the authorities to face the facts—their nation's ivory markets continue to be out of control and fuel the current African elephant poaching crisis. Without swift and decisive action to address glaring legal loopholes, this unacceptable situation will continue."
An increasing pile of evidence shows that African terrorist groups and militias are poaching elephants to fund their destabilizing and murderous activities. For example, elephant poaching has been linked to the Lord Resistance Army run by Joseph Kony, which has been accused of murder, rape, mutilation, child sex slavery, and child soldiers.
The African elephant is currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. However, that listing is long out of date. Made in 2008, the listing was given just as poaching began to rise to current levels. Moreover the Red List only recognizes one species of elephant, although a recent study identified two very different species: the more well-known bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the lesser-known forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), separated by 2-7 million years of evolution. Although both species have been decimated by poaching, forest elephants are far closer to the edge of extinction.
|AUTHOR: Jeremy Hance joined Mongabay full-time in 2009. He currently serves as senior writer and editor. He has also authored a book.|
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