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Published December 4, 2013 by Mary McShane
When you were growing up, your first exposure to elephants was probably when you went the zoo. Or maybe you saw them in a movie or at a circus parading or doing tricks. This is the picture many of us have in our minds about elephants.
Elephants are very intelligent creatures. They are living, breathing animals who grow up to parent, forage and take care of their young. There is video documentation which captures elephants displaying grief, comradery, affection and even humor.
Warning, Graphic Content!
This article, along with the photographs and videos may be disturbing to some readers. I do feel compelled to give you that warning. However, as harsh as it sounds, I hope you do find this article and the videos very disturbing. Long after you have moved on to other activities of the day, it is my wish that the images and story will stay with you so that you initiate conversation to bring awareness to the plight of the elephant.
But in some parts of the world, elephants are not even viewed as animals. They are revered solely for the value of their ivory.
The rising demand for ivory coupled with the enormous amounts of money Asian dealers will pay for it is enticing all kinds of people to take up poaching for a living. Elephants are being butchered for their ivory tusks and the poachers are none too gentle about it. They savagely remove the tusks in any fashion they can.
Poachers have many ways of doing it, none of which are "humane." Some poachers don't want or can't bring themselves to shoot them, so they get a little creative with poisons.
But there are lots of elephants on earth, you say?
Just to put this into perspective, in the 1930s there were between 7 million and 10 million elephants in existence. Today there are between 300,000 and 500,000 left. That's pretty pathetic. To savagely kill these animals primarily to take their tusks for ornamental purposes is very sad.
Some people butcher elephants because enjoy eating elephant meat. But the majority of people who kill elephants do it for the money. Taking their tusks goes hand in hand with brutally slaughtering them because of the location of the tusks.
In various parts of Africa, a poacher can earn the equivalent of 12 years of farming just on the sale of the tusks of one elephant.
Poaching is at an all time high since the 1989 ban went into effect. According to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), up to 100,000 African elephants could be killed by illegal poachers in the next ten years.
It is offically open season on elephants in Africa.
This is why elephants are being slaughtered
- Effects of Poaching on African Elephants | The Center for Conservation Biology
The number of elephants dropped from 1.3 million to 600,000 between 1979-1987. Poachers concentrated among the largest adults with the biggest tusks. Females and babies are easier to find and kill than males.
Quoting this report from Johannesburg, South Africa by the Associated Press:
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — As many as 20 percent of Africa's elephants could be killed in the next 10 years if illegal poaching continues at the current rate, according to new data released Monday at the opening of the Elephant Summit in Botswana.
An estimated 22,000 elephants were illegally killed across Africa in 2012, slightly lower than the 25,000 elephants poached in 2011, according to a report by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES.
The elephant killings took place at 42 sites across 27 Africa countries, said the CITES report.
More Hubs on the Plight of the Elephant
- Poaching Elephants for Ivory
The elephant is Africa are a shrinking group. Poaching for ivory is a huge problem in Africa and slowly killing thousands of elephants annually.
- Are Elephants Becoming Extinct or Proliferating? - They Are Both
Elephants are protected species, but in some parts of the world they are becoming overpopulation with some possible dire results.
These are the efforts to help stop the killing
- In the Fight Against Elephant Poaching, the U.S. Can Lead | John F. Calvelli
A turning point may have been the reported slaughter in May of dozens of elephants at the Central African Republic's Dzanga Bai, a historic sanctuary for forest elephants at which WCS has been monitoring and protecting wildlife for 20 years.
- The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Updates
A haven for elephant orphans, rhinos and other animals. Read about our work on elephant conservation, anti-poaching resource and everything else about elephants.
- Landmark Arrest in Togo and Another Seizure in Hong Kong | Bloody Ivory : Stop Elephant Poaching and
A key ivory trafficker in West Africa was arrested and a massive seizure of ivory was made by Hong Kong customs officials.
- A Commitment to Fight the Illegal Wildlife Trade in Africa | TIME.com
In 2012 poachers killed 35,000 elephants—that's nearly 96 per day, part of an illegal killing spree that has seen the number of African elephants plummet by 76% since 1980.
A Different Kind of Poacher: Tribal Elephant Poachers
No One To Sell To
Can you imagine? In the above video, the poacher says that the only reason he stopped poaching is because the connection to his dealer died and he had no one to sell the ivory to. I think this is highly doubtful considering there is no lack of buyers with demand being so high.
That is just one case in point; not all poachers are tribal natives.
Methods Of Killing Elephants
Some even consider themselves aristocrats. For those who have an aversion to shooting the elephants, they are using cyanide to poison their watering holes where they drink water.
When they fall over dead, they take their ivory tusks in the most savage of ways imaginable, leaving carcasses scattered in pieces.
The problem with poisoning them with cyanide is that not only the elephant and the land is poisoned for years, but wildlife who feed on the carcasses of dead elephants are also poisoned.
Besides the horrors of slaughtering and butchering these creatures, losing the elephant population damages the ecosystem.
Elephants feed on the bark of over 70 species of trees, creating a habitat for other wildlife by germinating trees and spreading seeds. They also act like a bulldozer by knocking down trees which allows light to come through the forests. Eliminating elephants will kill off forests.
From The Washington Post:
In November 2013, in an effort to send a message to ivory poachers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service destroyed six tons of confiscated African elephant ivory which was stored over the last 25 years.
In July 2013, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Ports Authority seized over 3 tons of ivory (over 775 pieces) which was in containers labelled as "peanuts." It is suspected that the ivory was on its way to Malaysia, a country heavily involved in trafficking illegal ivory.
In late July 2013, another confiscation resulted in seizing 382 whole tusks (some weighing as much as 60kg each) and 62 cut pieces.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is also instrumental in the war against poaching and protecting elephants. Click the link to view elephants in their wildlife habitat.
I hope you have time to view some of the stories at the links provided in this article. Thank you for reading.
© Mary McShane
© 2013 Mary McShane