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.
In the last four years the price of ivory in China has tripled, according to new research from Save the Elephants. The news has worrying implications for governments and conservationists struggling to save elephants in Africa amidst a poaching epidemic, which has seen tens-of-thousands of elephants butchered for their tusks across the continent annually.
“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.
(07/03/2014) Two prominent NGOs U.S should sanction Mozambique for its role in elephant, rhino poaching, urges NGOsare petitioning the U.S government to slap Mozambique with trade sanctions due to the country’s role in regional poaching. The groups contend that Mozambique has done little to combat both its own poaching epidemic or stop its nationals from spilling over the border to kill rhinos and elephants in South Africa and Tanzania.
(06/18/2014) Musician Billy Joel has weighed in on the ivory bill making its way through the New York State legislature.
(06/16/2014) While illegal, the ivory trade is having a huge impact on elephant populations throughout the world. A new report issued by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) finds that while there was a small reduction in the number of African elephants killed by poachers in 2013, the rate is still unsustainable.
(06/15/2014) Over the last two months, poachers have killed 68 African elephants in Garamba National Park representing around four percent of the population. Poachers have used helicopters, grenades, and chainsaws to undertake their gruesome trade, and, for the first time, the park has recorded that the criminals are removing the elephant’s brains in addition to tusks and genitals.
(06/13/2014) Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and her daughter Chelsea are urging for further action to protect elephants from the devastating ivory trade.
(06/13/2014) The New York State Assembly has passed a bill that would ban the purchase and sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which played a key role in pushing the legislation.
(05/30/2014) Researchers from the University of Sussex studied and compared the social behavior of two elephant herds: one that was severely affected by 1970 and 1980 culling operations and a herd that was relatively unaffected. In their results, the researchers found that the elephant herds that had experienced culling operations exhibited signs of post traumatic stress disorder.
(05/21/2014) In Sri Lanka, an underground wildlife racket has been simmering for a while. And a recent incident has brought it to a boil. On the night of May 1st, a gang attempted to kidnap a wild elephant calf out of the Uduwalawe National Park in Sri Lanka. But tipped off by alert villagers, police and wildlife officers foiled the abduction.
(05/17/2014) Hong Kong has begun destroying its 29.6-metric-ton stockpile of confiscated ivory. On Thursday authorities in the semi-autonomous Chinese city crushed and incinerated a ton of seized ivory in an action they hope will send a message to poachers and traffickers.
(05/12/2014) Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has stepped up with a $1 million donation to the Elephant Crisis Fund, an initiative that aims to stop the ivory poaching crisis.