Ivory Trade Endangering African Elephants

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African Elephant, Loxodonta africana - up close and personal in Mapungubwe

At the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), conservation organizations warned illegal ivory trade is responsible for the decline of the endangered African elephant population.

“Globally, illegal ivory trade activity has more than doubled since 2007, and is now over three times larger than it was in 1998,” said a report, “Elephants in the Dust – The African Elephant Crisis,” according to The Associate Press.

CITES claims that three African and five Asian nations will be on notice since they have not cracked down on ivory trade and other nations—such as Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and China—will be threatened with sanctions.

According to The Associated Press:

A CITES-led project that monitors about 40 percent of Africa’s elephant population estimated that 17,000 elephants were illegally killed in 2011, and the numbers are probably the same or greater for last year, said the report, produced by CITES, the U.N. Environment Program, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, better known as TRAFFIC.

The report said the increased poaching and loss of habitat threaten the survival of elephant populations in Central Africa and undermine previously more secure populations in West, Southern and East Africa.

Curbing the ivory trade is a major topic for the CITES meeting, attended by about 2,000 delegates representing 178 governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations and groups speaking for indigenous peoples.

The report, “Elephants in the Dust – The African Elephant Crisis,” said criminal networks are increasingly active and entrenched in the trafficking of ivory between Africa and Asia. “Training of enforcement officers in the use of tracking, intelligence networks and innovative techniques, such as forensic analysis, is urgently needed,” it said.

Officials from the conservation groups said CITES is also putting pressure on governments of nations found to be key links in the chain of the illegal ivory trade.

“Where there is not action to address this issue I am hopeful that the CITES parties will move forward with sanctions that would suspend trade in wildlife with those countries,” said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s ivory expert, to reporters.

Earlier this year, a 14-year study found that the future for Kenyan elephants was bleak—the study of nearly 1,000 elephants in Kenya found the death rate amongst big-tusked males to have accelerated in recent years. This news isn’t new, given that this past September CNN warned elephants in Africa are being killed “at an alarming rate by increasingly efficient and well-armed poachers as international demand soars for the ivory from their tusks.”

The Associated Press shares of the study:

Save the Elephants said Thursday that its study found that the region of Samburu had 38 known elephant males over the age of 30 in the year 2000, but that only five of those original 38 were still alive by 2011. Almost half of the known females over 30 years also died during this period, at least half from illegal killings, the study found. Targeted poaching deaths of Africa’s elephants have accelerated in the last several years. The killings are driven by the rising price of ivory as demand increases across Asia — and especially in China.

“China has taken over Japan as the world’s largest ivory consumer. And from 2006 to last year, the ivory price in China has tripled. So that’s why some Chinese buy ivory products in Africa with dollars and smuggle them back to China to sell for a better price,” said Grace Gabriel, Asia regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, to CNN.

Photo by Derek Keats

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Susmita is a freelance writer and editor in the Greater New York City area with her own blog on natural beauty (Cherry Stained Lips). In her spare time, Susmita enjoys cooking, traveling, dappling in photography, art history and interior design, and moonlighting as a therapist for her loved ones.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.wasserman.7 Chris Wasserman

    The report also warns that the good work done to manage elephant
    populations in Southern Africa might make them the next targets. Poaching in Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe is already starting.

    The poachers are “running out” of animals in Central Africa and West Africa and will soon direct their efforts to these countries.