China and the Slaughter of Africa's Elephants
Because of the demand for ivory by Chinese consumers, the elephant and rhino tusks are prized items to sell in a very competitive market. The tusk value is purely ornamental, yet, sought by Chinese consumers. Nearly 70% of the all tusks go to China because of their new middle class that now can afford to buy jewelry made of them. The cost for elephant's tusks is now at $1000 a pound on the streets of Beijing. Killing one elephant to an African is like 10 times the annual income for them. A pound of a rhino's horn will sell for $30,000!
That said, the 140 rangers, armed with helicopters and automatic weapons that police the Congo's Garamba National Park are dwarfed by the illicit trade and poachers that are slaughtering elephants in horrendous numbers, cutting off the tusks, and leaving the dead animal. Last year, the park had 20,000 elephants, today, 2800!
The total elephant population is estimated at 500,000+. Garamba was create to protect the elephant and white rhino, but the white rhino was last seen five years ago and there use to 1000. The elephants are following the same crazy killing for income spurred on by the Chinese consumer who also think rhino horns and tusks have cancer healing properties. Even the Congo military has been caught killing elephants and cutting off the tusks. They were not the only ones, a Ugandan army helicopter was seen flying in on an unauthorized flight, firing its machine guns killing elephants as ground soldiers used hatchets to get the tusks. In this one attack, 22 elephants were killed.
The Ugandan Army is one of America's closest partners in Africa. Yet, the US has done nothing.