Poaching Elephants for Ivory

African Elephant Mikumi National Park, Tansania

Source

Demise of Elephants

I recently watched a National Geographic show on TV about elephants, and while I learned a wealth of information, I was shocked at the volume of elephants killed for their ivory.

In 1997, there were 13 million elephants, but in 2007 the elephant population is between 472,000 and 690,000. Most of that ivory seemed to make its way to China, and it is quite expensive to purchase. This slaughter is happening primarily in African countries, and while it is against the law it is difficult to catch the thieves.

Elephants Bathing

Source

Facts on Elephants

Elephants are endangered animals for a variety of reasons. Their habitat is dwindling due to man, and their habitat is becoming hotter, which means drier conditions and less available food. This is particularly tough on the calves. Poaching for ivory is growing and a major problem, particularly in Africa.

These social animals are huge, as males are 10 to13 feet tall, up to 30 feet long from the tail to the trunk and weigh from 6,000 to 15,000 pounds. Their lifespan is about 70 years. The calves weigh about 200-225 pounds at birth. Elephants have deep family bonds and the females stay together for life.

The herd is led by the oldest and usually largest female of the herd, called the matriarch. Older elephants teach the young. The whole herd protects the newborn calves. The males leave the herd between the ages of 12 to 15 years, and they lead solitary lives or sometimes they may live temporarily with other males.

Raised Trunk is a Warning

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More Elephant Facts

Another interesting fact is they communicate when they produce sub-sonic rumbles that travel over the ground faster than sounds travel through the air. They can hear through their feet as their skin is sensitive on their feet and on their trunks. They flap their big ears to control the temperature of their body.

They are intelligent, and their memories span many years. This memory is what allows the matriarch to lead the herd for miles to find water in the dry months. They mourn the loss of a member and never forget where the loss occurred. Elephants play, show joy, show grief and anger.

Over the past 10 years the African elephants are showing fear and run from men without provocation. They will have secretions from their temporal scent glands, which are a sign of fear. This is due to the vast number of poachers, and the death of so many elephants.

Elephants in Africa

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified the African elephant as endangered, with good reason. More than 56 percent of elephants live in southern Africa, and poaching is now becoming a bigger problem in that area and also in eastern Africa.

Prior to this time the bulk of the poaching was done in central Africa. Poachers are killing elephants by the tens of thousands for their ivory. In 2012, 200 elephants were massacred in Cameroon by poachers. The largest game reserve in Africa is the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania where 30,000 elephants were killed last year. Poachers are even killing younger elephants that have much smaller tusks.

Babies Protected in the Middle of Group

Amboseli National Park by Mount Kilaminjaro
Amboseli National Park by Mount Kilaminjaro | Source

Poaching Elephants for Ivory

In 2011, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya set fire to five tons of contraband ivory as a symbol of their commitment to ban the killing of the elephants. They wanted to demonstrate to the world their serious concern about the fates of these great mammals. Unfortunately, he did make a statement, but it did not stop the poaching. Kenya has wild life rangers that are licensed to shoot to kill if they cannot stop poachers with weapons.

Due to automatic weapons and some poachers even own helicopters, poaching is over-all well organized, and it is difficult for authorities to control. In 1989, international ivory trade was officially banned by the Convention in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which did close some of the ivory markets. However, it did not stop poaching and some African nations see ivory as bringing economic benefit to their country.

Chinese Demand for Ivory

The price has tripled over the past year for raw elephant tusks in China. The purchasing power in China has is growing the demand for ivory. The Chinese see ivory as a status symbol, and love to own make beautiful hand carved statues, jewelry, chop sticks and even middle class Chinese families often own pieces of ivory art. They also like to have carved ivory Buddha. There is every reason to think diplomats and the Chinese government is involved in ivory trade.

There are 136 retailers that have permission to sell ivory products, but the shops sell ivory illegally are plentiful. There is a current investigation of the Beijing antique mall as they found 20 shops selling ivory illegally.

Orphan Elephants at David Sheldrick Animal Orphanage, Kenya

Elephant Stack

Pam's photo
Pam's photo

Ivory Pieces

When I was a child my father traveled for business and went to Aruba. At that time ivory was available and used for many things, such as piano keys and billiard balls. My father bought some carved ivory pieces for my mother, which I have pictured below. He had the little village shipped, and unfortunately some pieces were broken when it arrived. It is still beautiful.

Ivory Elephants

Pam's photo
Pam's photo

Ivory Necklace

Pam's photo
Pam's photo

The Elephant Whisperer

The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild
The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild

He bought 5,000 acres of pristine bush in the heart of Zululand, South Africa," transforming a rundown hunters' camp (dating to the 19th century) into a wild animal preserve. Excellent book.

 

Summary

Certainly the carved ivory pieces are beautiful, but at what cost? We did not consider their slaughter back when I was a child.

It is heart breaking that so many thousands of elephants are slaughterd for their ivory and maybe a bit a meat. One has to wonder if elephants will still be roaming the earth 25 years from now

© 2013 Pamela Oglesby

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Comments 44 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

I wrote a hub about this maybe six months ago. It is incredibly selfish, but what can you expect when there is a public willing to pay for the demise of a species?

Good job of raising awareness, Pamela.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

Hi Pamela, I watched a documentary on this recently also, it is so sad, the callousness just makes my blood boil. Unfortunately, the slaughtering will go on as long as people are prepared to pay for the tusks of elephants and also rhinos. You've done an excellent job of helping to spread awareness, let's hope the right people are reading this.

My best to you.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Billy, I was really touched by the show I saw and plus we had ivory most of my life, which now I feel bad about. Thanks for your commets.

tobusiness, You are exactly right. My hope was to spread awareness as they are slaughteing more elephants that ever now. The Chinese are huge importers and I don't know how that can be stopped. I appreciate your comments.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

Every time I read about the demise of these glorious creatures a bit of my heart is shattered. I read Elephant Whisperer because I read about it here months ago. What a powerful story.

Thank you for publishing this...we all need to be aware.

Angels in abundance are on the way ps


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Patricia, I feel the same way, and I did write a hub about The Elephant Whisperer as I thought it was a powerful story also. I am glad you found this hub to increase awareness. Thank you for your comments and the angels. Angels on the way to you also.


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida

The elephant is just a magnificent animal. I have a beautiful piece of ivory I bought about 30 years ago at a public auction. It has a beautiful engraving on it of a Chinese figure.

Did you ever see the movie, Elephant Walk, with Elizabeth Taylor?

Wonderful Hub. I voted it UP and shared.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 3 years ago from South Carolina

Like you, I did not give thought to the slaughter of elephants in order to obtain the ivory that could be carved into so many beautiful things when I was growing up.

More recently I have become aware of the facts and statistics you wrote about in this article and it is indeed heartbreaking as things seem to be getting much worse, not better.

Thanks for posting this article and bringing more awareness to this topic.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

Nice article that touches upon one area of my major interest!

National Geographic had published an article on elephants back in the 80s, titled something like 'Elephants are humans almost'. I have a very high esteem for these pachyderms ever since I read that article.

Elephants are a very intelligent life form and poaching them for making decoration items is too callous and inhumane on part of the homo sapiens. I am clueless as to how to protect elephants if China is involved. Western countries that can influence that country are too dependent on it for providing cheap products.

Ditto rhinos.

Conservation organizations and civil society need to think of creative ways to protect elephants and rhinos.

Btw, there is an error in your article. It says, "These social animals are huge, as males are five feet and 14 inches tall, ...".


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

Even in this day and age. Thank you for this report.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Mary, I did see that movie, but many years ago. Elephants are magnificient and I have always been interested in them. I am glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.

Have a wonder day and thank you for the share.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Gail, It is disheartening that things are getting worse. I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Suhail, It is sad that people value money and profits more than these magnificient animals. I will correct that height immediately as I missed it in my review. I fully agree with your position on these animals. Thank you for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Martin, Thank you for your comments.


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

Pam, this absolutely breaks my heart and angers me at the same time. How can mankind allow this to continue, all for a few trinkets. These beautiful creatures were not put on this earth so that we could kill them for their tusks. Elephants are amazing creatures and so intelligent and social. I certainly hope that the US is putting pressure on China to stop this cruel practice. Thanks so much for helping to spread awareness. Voted up, shared, pinned, etc...


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

I think elephants are one of the most amazing animals on earth. They are highly intelligent and feel compassion and empathy. There have been so many amazing stories about elephants, especially the "Elephant Whisperer". It breaks my heart knowing how they are being slaughtered. We need to do all we can to bring attention to this matter and you have done an excellent job here! Voting this up, awesome and sharing! :)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi Pamela, thank you for this hub. It is sad to see what humans do to these animals just for the sake of their ivory. I hope the governments take steps to completely stop ivory trade.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

Voted up and sharing!


drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

Elephants are magnificent social creatures, as you point out, Pamela, and ivory poachers should be shot on sight as far as I'm concerned. Thanks for bringing this information to your readers' attention.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

It is so sad to such actions, elephants are treated as objects and most of a most merciless act to these living creatures.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Bill, hope they are putting pressure on China also as that is where the bulk of the ivory goes. Elephants are so amazing and unique that I find this heart breaking also. It is amazing how smart there are. If you want to read a good book "The Elephant Whisperer" is very good. The land owner gets about 20 rogue elephants that would have been put to death as they were so dangerous, and he has many adventures working with the elephants. I really loved the book. I do hope to spread awareness. Thanks for the comments, shared and pinned efforts. Much appreciated.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

sgbrown, I agree with your completely. It is amazing that an animal that size feels compassio and empathy; plus they always remember where one of there group dies and they mourn them.I loved the story in that book also. Thanks for the comments and the share.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

livingsta, I know several countries have outlawed the practice and tried, but the elephants are spread over such a wide area, it is difficult to have enough manpower to watch them all. As long as there is a demand in China, you will have people breaking the law. China needs to be stopped. Thanks so much for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

drbj, I fully agree about the poachers and they do have the legal authority to do so in one country. Thanks so much for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

DDE, I agree that it is sad. The TV show I watched left me teary eyed. Thanks for your comments.


Sue Bailey profile image

Sue Bailey 3 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

It really upsets me this subject. The poachers should be punished very severely. Voted up, shared and pinned


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Sue, I am in full agreement with you and feel the same way. I was glad to know the rangers have a right to shoot poachers in one of the national parks. Much more needs to be done. Thanks for your comments and the share.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

Further to my earlier comments, the only solution that I can give to stop poaching is to stop consumption at final destination.

Conservation companies and petition sites come readily to my mind. A letter to China's concerned ministry with letters signed by thousands of signatories can make a difference because countries like China don't want negative publicity about it.

I will contact two petition sites and see if I can get something started.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

It is sad to kill beautiful animals for their ivory, also fur and skin from other animals. I can see why people want the ivory, it is beautifil. Greed is terrible and heartless. Thank you for writing this. Voted up..Well done...


midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

Man has to learn that there is space in the world for everyone and everything. That there is enough abundance to share. Thanks for sharing, Pamela.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

It is a shame these creatures have this fear of men. I stopped in at a specialty store and saw they had ivory sculptures for sale. I wondered at how they obtained these expensive items. Sad, isn't it?


epbooks profile image

epbooks 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

Pamela99- as an animal lover, reading this made me so very sad. We hear about it on the news, but it's one of those things that gets forgotten by most without realizing what is happening to these beautiful animals. Thank you for posting. Voted up.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

I don't know what happened, i commented on your story earlier. I have always felt sorry for elephants used in carnivals. It's a shame to kill any animal for profit. I can see why they want the ivory, your items are beautiful. Thank you for sharing this story...


Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

Elephants are magnificent animals. It is very sad that they are still being killed. Great hub, informative and useful. Voted up.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Ruby, You are right about greed. I never understood this people that go to Africa to kill game so they can mount their heads on their either. I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Midget, Your comment says it all. Man does need to learn that lesson. Thanks so much for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Dianna, My computer went nuts for a minute and I lost your comment, so I will try again. The fact that the elephants were now frightened really bothered me also. I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Vellur, They are magnificient, more than most any animal I can thing of, and it is sad. I am glad you liked the hub and I appreciate your comments.


Vickiw 3 years ago

I skipped by your Hub several times, as I find it so upsetting to think about this let alone read about it. I simply can't imagine how anyone would want to harm these magnificent creatures. I always try to look at the other side of things too, but when you read that these poachers have automatic weapons and helicopters you know this savagery is not due to economic need, just greed and total lack of respect. Great Hub, Pamela, and so glad you raise awareness in this way.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Vicki, I think you nailed it. Greed and lack of respect as I too can hardly stomach the thought of these magnificent creatures being killed for nothing more than a lovely piece of ivory for you mantle. I hope awareness will begin some actions to help stop this problem. Thank you for your comments.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Excellent hub, Pam. The demand for ivory art in China has skyrocketed, along with prices. It’s a shame because this “trend” comes at the cost of one of our dearest natural treasures. I have always loved elephants; they are supremely intelligent, with strong familial instincts and sensitivities. When will humanity learn that this inhuman slaughter comes at a horrific price?


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Genna, You are absolutely right. I have always loved elephants also. Thank you so much for your comments.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

I had the pleasure of visiting East Africa when I was in the Navy about 25 years ago and it was an experience I will never forget. I came face to face with elephants and other large mammals and it is a disgrace that these magnificent beasts are vanishing from the planet. Thanks for raising awareness.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Mel, What an awesome experience you had! I would love to have that experience, assuming I was in a safe spat It is a disgrace and I so hope people will unite and say Enough! Thanks for your comments.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thank you for this useful and important article. The elephant situation is a tragedy. Elephants are clever and fascinating animals. It's horrible that their population is in such a sad state.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Alicia, I fully agree with everything you said and appreciate your comments.

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