Archive for the ‘Elephants’ Tag

Hunters Say Trophy Hunting Helps Animals. Here’s Why They Are Wrong.   2 comments

October 05, 2015 Source

Ever since the death of Cecil the lion, the world’s been looking at trophy hunting a bit more closely. While many people have condemned the practice as cruel, ardent big game hunters have stood up to defend it, arguing that it’s a selfless act of conservation and that both animals and local people benefit from the hobby.

But with wildlife populations in Africa continuing to plummet — and with iconic species at risk of disappearing in our lifetime — these defenses don’t hold up. Here’s why.

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“The money goes to local communities.”

Big game hunters say they help support local communities and conservation efforts by paying for big game hunts. However, while hunters pay roughly $200 million each year for big game hunts in Africa, only around 3 percent of those funds go to local communities, and the amount dedicated to conservation efforts is nearly negligible. The overwhelming majority of hunting fees ends up lining the pockets of middlemen, large companies and local governments.

“Hunting helps wild populations.”

Big game hunters argue that killing can help a species by removing older animals from the population, or say that they trust governments to set sustainable hunting quotas.

Unfortunately, in practice these arguments don’t hold up. For one, some governments are more interested in how much a dead lion can bring them than in establishing sustainable hunting limits. For example, there are around 20,000 to 35,000 wild lions left in Africa, depending on whom you ask, and big game hunters legally kill around 600 each year. That’s an annual population loss of 2 to 3 percent, which is entirely unsustainable, even if you don’t add in deaths due to poaching and livestock protection.

And while nature likes to pick off the weakest members of a population, big game hunters target the largest, strongest members of a population. For lions, that means the male pride leader; for elephants, the oldest elephant with the biggest tusks. Killing these animals, who play a crucial role in their societies, puts the rest of their families at risk.

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For example, killing a male lion with an impressive mane leaves his fellow pride leaders open to challenges from other males. If a new male does come in, they could kill an entire generation of cubs, which means that the permit for one lion hunt leads to the death of several animals.

And the loss of older elephants means leaving male or female youngsters without guidance — which can actually lead to so-called teenage delinquents who are more likely to have negative interactions with humans, and therefore be killed.

The loss of any animal also means the loss of any offspring they could have parented, a knock to conservation that goes far beyond taking just one animal out of the population. And while some proponents of big game hunting advocate for only killing animals who have already contributed their genes to the population, most animals will continue to propagate until they die.

Of course, the biggest rebuttal to the hunting-helps-populations argument is in the numbers. Lions have lost 95 percent of their population since the 1940s. The African elephant population has dropped from several million at the turn of the century to roughly 500,000 today. During the past century hunting has been the primary — if not only — method of conservation, but the perilously low numbers of these animals proves that hunting is ineffective as a conservation method.

And even with these reduced populations, trophy hunters still kill around 105,000 animals in Africa every year, including 600 elephants and 800 leopards, at a time when every individual is crucial to the survival of the species.

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“Canned hunting helps repopulate animals.”

Some hunters tout canned hunting — an unsportsmanlike practice in which lions and other animals are bred in captivity then released into pens where they can’t escape so hunters can shoot them — as a sustainable alternative, arguing that canned hunting incentivizes captive breeding, which can be used to repopulate wild populations.

But animals bred at canned hunting facilities are completely unsuitable for release. Taken away from their mothers at just a few days old and raised by humans, the lions are incapable of surviving on their own. Many of them are inbred, which means breeding with wild lions could weaken the species’ gene pool. And releasing a captive-bred lion into wild lions’ territory could lead to fighting, upsetting the delicate balance — and the safety — of existing prides.

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“Hunting helps protect locals.”

Local communities often find themselves at odds with African wildlife. Elephants destroy crops; lions and other predators can target people or livestock. These animals are often killed — and tourism hunting is often encouraged — in the name of protecting humans from African wildlife.

But as human lands continue to increase, animals continue to be pushed into smaller and smaller territories. In many cases these negative interactions are the result of animals simply trying to survive. Iconic African wildlife is at risk of disappearing, and the solution is to learn to live with animals, not keep killing them.

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“It’s an industry that Africa couldn’t do without.”

While trophy hunting does bring in some capital to African countries, it makes up as little as 1.8 percent of tourism revenues. The majority of tourists come to see Africa’s wildlife, not kill it. And if big game hunting continues to deplete that wildlife, it could take down the other 98 percent of Africa’s tourism income.

An individual animal, particularly if it’s a member of the more iconic species, is worth far more to a country alive over the course of his lifetime than dead. Need proof? Look at Botswana. Beginning in January 2014, the country banned almost all hunting after comparing the conservation cost of big game hunting with the income generated from photo tourism: The photo tourism season is longer, makes better use of animals and employs significantly more locals. In the first year of the ban, the country brought in around $344 million from nonlethal tourism.

Of course, changes can take getting used to, but in an age when iconic species are at risk of being lost forever, killing any individual animal for sheer pleasure — especially in the name of conservation — is highly counterproductive.

To find out more, watch Blood Lions on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 10 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

The views expressed here are The Dodo’s and do not necessarily reflect those of MSNBC.

By Ameena Schelling – Email: ameena@thedodo.com – Twitter: @amschelling

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Sixty Seven Elephants in Need of Immediate Rescue in India   2 comments

From:  HuffPost Blog

Dec. 24, 2014 by Jon Dunn, Wildlife SOS USA

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Circus elephant Suzy’s cracked footpad discovered during inspection.

 

Suzy’s cracked footpad tells the story of her terribly hard life. The image, hard to look at for any compassionate person, was taken as Suzy was evaluated as part of her impending rescue. Suzy is one of sixty-seven pachyderms living in terrible conditions in Indian circuses, despite a nationwide ban on the use of elephants in such shows. The next step for Suzy and the others is to find their way to safety thanks to Wildlife S.O.S, who has agreed to take on the facilitation of the rescue of all the elephants.

You may have heard of Wildlife S.O.S. over the summer when we rescued Raju, who had been held in chains for 50-years. The story of his rescue captured international media attention and cast a new spotlight on the incredible work of this organization. I first learned of Wildlife SOS in 2007 and eagerly accepted a position on the board of directors for Wildlife S.O.S USA in 2008. A trip to India soon followed, and seeing the work of the organization firsthand has forever changed my life.

That trip, at the end of 2010, coincided with the rescue of the final “dancing bear” of India. The dancing bears, as they’re known, were the product of a centuries old tradition. Cubs would be poached from the wild and their muzzles would be cruelly pierced. The bear’s owner (a term I use lightly) would then drag this wild animal around the country from weddings to places heavily trafficked by tourists to anywhere a few rupees might be available for the performed trick. A tug on the end of the rope attached to the piercing would cause the bear to jump up in an effort to reduce the pain. That movement, or “dancing” would result in a measly donation – not nearly enough for the owner and their family to eat, let alone enough leftover to care for the bear. It was a cruel and unusual practice, and one that Wildlife S.O.S cofounders Kartick Satyanarayan and Geeta Seshmani knew they needed to end.

Their solution was brilliant, yet simple. Knowing that many of the bear dancers no longer wanted to do this, they knew with the right incentive they could steer their lives in new directions. Instead of just taking the bears away (fully allowable given strict Indian wildlife protection laws), which would ensure a high recidivism rate, they also worked to retrain all members of the family in new careers such as carpet weaving, rickshaw driving – whatever they wanted. They supplied them with seed money to help them begin their new lives, and their kids were put in school at the organization’s expense. More than 600 rescued bears later, and I was there in person to watch as Raju, the final dancing bear, was surrendered. It was an incredibly emotional moment for everyone and I feel incredibly honored to have been able to be there to see it firsthand.

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Suzy is blind and is suffering from bad health. She is chained all the time, standing in her own feces. Suzy’s mental and physical health status is very poor due to no regular exercise, no enrichment, and an unbalanced diet with poor nutrition. Although she is suffering, there is no veterinarian to help her.

 

Although the organization was founded to help the dancing bears, the work of Wildlife S.O.S goes far beyond bears (remind me to tell you the story of the monitor lizard rescue I went on someday. It involves me on the back of a motorcycle flying through the streets of Delhi!). The organization set up India’s first modern elephant care center, where elephants are given sanctuary from lives spent in servitude. Currently 12 elephants are split between two sanctuaries in India, where they never again have to be chained, perform tricks, or give people rides. They will be allowed to live their lives as elephants, happy, enriched, comfortable and loved.

But the need is very, very great. In 2013 India outlawed the use of elephants in circuses – finally adding them to the list of already outlawed circus animals that includes tigers, monkeys and bears. The rescue of the 67 won’t come cheaply. At a cost of just over $110,000 per elephant, the first phase rescue of 17 elephants will cost more than $1.8 million dollars. A large price tag to be sure, but a small price to pay to pull these elephants out of their lives of misery.

WILDLIFE SOS’ FUNDRAISER:

RESCUE SUZY AND ALL OF INDIA’S CIRCUS ELEPHANTS

There are currently 67 elephants languishing in circuses in India that urgently need to be moved to elephant rehabilitation centers and camps. One of the circus elephants in need of immediate rescue is a female we’ll call Suzy (her name has been changed to protect her identity).

Suzy is blind and is suffering from bad health. She is chained all the time, standing in her own feces. Suzy’s mental and physical health status is very poor due to no regular exercise, no enrichment, and an unbalanced diet with poor nutrition. Although she is suffering, there is no veterinarian to help her.

Wildlife SOS is now ready to take the first steps toward rescuing Suzy and ALL of the remaining circus elephants in India, in partnership with the government.

In the first phase of this campaign we would like to rescue 17 elephants and we estimate it will cost us $1.876 million, or just over $110,000 per elephant. This amount will cover the legal cost, the investigation, the rescue and transport after rescue, and settling them in to our rescue centers.

Our hope is to rescue Suzy, and others like her, starting in 2015.

Please give today to support this monumental effort, so that we can one day say that there are no more elephants suffering in India’s circuses. What a beautiful day that will be.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Wildlife SOS.

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Entry of elephants into municipal areas banned in Maharashtra   Leave a comment

From:  DNAIndia.com

Dec 13, 2014

by Tanea Bandyopadhyay

 

In order to save elephants, the Maharashtra Forest Department has banned their entry into municipal corporation areas in the state. The order was passed on December 8 by the principal chief conservator of forests, Sarjan Bhagat, after a presentation was made by members of the People for Animals (PFA) to forest minister Sudhir Mungatiwar and other forest officers.

Poonam Mahajan, MP and trustee, PFA, said: “We are grateful to Mr Mungatiwar and the forest department for this positive step. The hon’ble Minister has truly understood the plight of elephants. Elephants are wild animals and crowded cities are no place for them. The order rightly points out that elephants in cities are a risk to themselves and people. This is certainly a step in a positive direction. We are working on other wildlife issues in Maharashtra as well. Our aim is that people must understand and respect animals and the environment.”

According to Ambika Hiranandani, animal rights lawyer and member of PFA, getting the order passed is only half the battle won as to have a Maharashtra free from elephants in captivity is the long-term goal.

“There are so many elephants forced to perform in circuses and held in zoos under horrific circumstances. Elephants are pricked at the sensitive spot behind their ears and made submissive. What could possibly justify such treatment,” asked Hiranandani.

 

Trophy hunting threatens Mapungubwe elephants   Leave a comment

BY SHARON VAN WYK 5 OCTOBER, 2014 SUNDAY INDEPENDENT FREE TO REPUBLISH

African_Elephant,_Mapungubwe Keats

While Africa is losing an elephant every 15 minutes to ivory poachers, trophy hunters are targeting the cross-border population of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA) to the extent that scientists predict trophy bulls will be all but gone from the region in a mere 10 years’ time.

The region’s hunting quotas, which are too high to sustain according to a study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of KwaZulu Natal, are also having a negative impact on the movement, dynamics and social structures of the GMTFCA’s elephants.

The conservation area encompasses the common boundaries between Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa and has at its centre the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers where both rivers form natural borders between the neighbouring states.

Declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2003, this area includes protected areas such as South Africa’s Mapungubwe National Park and Botswana’s Northern Tuli Game Reserve.

It is also home to numerous hunting concessions.

The research team of Sarah-Anne Jeanetta Selier, Bruce Page, Abi Tamim Vanak and Rob Slotow began their case study in 1999 and used population viability analysis software, distribution data from six aerial surveys and data from hunting operations in each country to reach its conclusions that at current levels, trophy hunting of elephant in the GMTFCA is completely unsustainable.

“Hunting of trophy bulls had a direct effect in reducing overall bull numbers,” says Selier.

A trophy bull is a male elephant over the age of 35 years.

Where elephants are concerned the older bulls, between 40 and 50-years of age, are the dominant breeders in the population.

By targeting these animals hunters are removing the breeding bulls, which will have a huge negative impact on the overall population.

“It also had an indirect effect on the population due to the disturbance, which resulted in elephants moving away from the hunting areas.

“Bull elephants returned to hunting areas relatively quickly, but it took far longer for breeding herds to return, the case study found, causing considerable disruption to the normal behaviour of these herds in the process.”

Importantly, the study also found that high levels of hunting of bulls caused a disturbance effect within breeding herds, with exacerbated stress levels observed throughout the population of the GMTFCA.

This disturbance has major ramifications for a region where both consumptive and non-consumptive use is made of elephants, with hunting concessions sitting alongside eco and photographic tourism destinations, says the study.

Excessive hunting invariably has a negative impact on tourism. During the course of the study, between anywhere from two to 43 elephant were hunted annually from the GMTFCA population.

And although from 2006 a zero hunting quota was set for elephants in South Africa, disturbingly 18 elephants were shot between 2006 and 2010 as “problem animals.”

Eleven of these were mature breeding bulls hunted by paying clients.

For the 2010 hunting season, the last monitored by the study, 40 bulls older than 35 years were killed within Botswana and Zimbabwe combined.

This is more than four times the quota identified and recommended by the study.

Botswana has banned trophy hunting since the study was completed because its government does not believe it has any value to conservation, however hunting is still prevalent within the GMTFCA as both Zimbabwe and South Africa have policies of sustainable utilisation which support it.

“It’s our recommendation that the quota system is revised as a matter of urgency and that a single, cross-border management authority be established to regulate hunting of both elephant and other species which range across the transfrontier region,” says Selier.

It is also perhaps pertinent to ascertain the circumstances in which South African authorities identify and target “problem elephants” where no hunting quotas have been set.

The aim of allocating hunting permits in terms of problem animal control laws are to deter elephants from entering communal areas and to compensate local communities for damage to crops and property in an effort to improve the tolerance of these communities towards elephants.

But the study shows that hunting bull elephants are not an effective deterrent as elephants return to the region within a year of the hunt taking place.

South Africa’s current system with regards to problem animals is ad hoc and lacks any systematic approach, says the study, and does not deal sufficiently with migratory cross-border movements of elephants.

The same can be said for the process used to set quotas.

“Throughout the period of our study there was no single approach to hunting quotas within the GMTFCA.

“Each country involved in the TFCA had its own method of calculating quotas and none were based on the actual biological population or took into account its various dynamics and movement patterns,” says Selier.

One of the common problems in the administration of the TFCA model is that there is no single management plan in effect, but rather three different and often opposing plans for each sovereign state involved.

“Management plans invariably aim for the sky but fall short on implementation because of a lack of budget,” explains Selier.

“Signatories to TFCAs need to adopt a more hands-on approach to the management of cross-border wildlife populations, especially elephants.

“Management plans need to be made to fit budgets and there needs to be monitoring of the implementation of these plans to ensure compliance, with solid international agreements in place,” she adds.

Elephants notoriously move away from areas where they are being hunted, which will then place more ecological pressure on the areas they move to. They are exceptionally clever animals in this respect.”

Is there a solution? Selier feels it is perhaps time that the management of TFCAs is re-examined.

“We need to start thinking out of the box and work together to find ways to make the utilisation of natural resources more responsible. We also need to find creative ways to keep each stakeholder in a TFCA involved in its overall management, and responsible for it,” she explains.

“The current quotas are neither sustainable nor responsible, and this needs to change quickly, before it’s too late.”

Main Photo: Mapungubwe Elephant (Derek Keats)

“This is a war”: A conflict photographer takes on the rapidly escalating poaching crisis – Salon.com   1 comment

“This is a war”: A conflict photographer takes on the rapidly escalating poaching crisis – Salon.com.

"This is a war": A conflict photographer takes on the rapidly escalating poaching crisis

(Credit: Screenshot, Kate Brooks/Kickstarter)

Poaching is really happening all over the continent, so one doesn’t really have to go very far, unfortunately, to find it. And I don’t know if you saw any of the reports that have come out in the last couple of days…

About the elephants? I wanted to ask you about that.

Yeah, the National Academy of Sciences just published a substantiated report stating that 100,000 elephants have been killed over the past three years. While many people believed those were roughly the numbers, they weren’t substantiated until this report came out. So the situation is dire for wildlife across Africa.

A lot of the coverage of poaching, and the effort to stop it, refers to it as a war. Based on what you’ve seen and your past experience, is that be an apt description?

What you’re seeing, I think, are landscapes that are increasingly militarized in an effort to deter poachers. I think it is generally fair to say this is a war and there are people being killed in the process, whether those are rangers or poachers. And even if they’re poachers, it has pretty significant effects on the social fabric of society. Because very often the people carrying out the actual poaching are people from impoverished communities and basically the product is being sort of passed on to criminal syndicates.

So you have rangers being killed in the process of protecting wildlife. You have the ways in which local communities are being affected by the demand for ivory. And then you have 100,000 elephants being killed in the last three years or over a thousand rhinos being killed per year. So with these numbers, we are really at an incredibly critical phase in human-animal relationships.

I think those numbers are really going to drive home for a lot of people that this is a tipping point, and just how extreme the problem is. Was there a moment like that for you, when you decided to start covering this topic? What made you realize how big of an issue it was?

Two years ago I was a Knight Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan. You had to summarize your study proposal in 15 words or fewer, and mine was, “Can there be ecological preservation in an overpopulated world with diminishing resources?” As a fellow there, having an advisor who’s an environmental anthropologist, I sort of began looking at the poaching crisis,  and I was seeing an uptick in poaching and in articles. I also started paying attention to the information that was being put out by various NGOs and I just thought that the problem was incredibly underreported in mainstream media. And that was really what compelled me to begin this project. I’m a photographer by profession; I’ve worked on documentaries before, but I’ve also been doing editorial assignments related to poaching and conservation. But I really felt that this project was necessary to address the complexities of poaching in a multimedia dimension.

I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about some of those complexities. I know when you do see poaching covered in the media it’s usually a very simple narrative: “Poaching is bad. We need to try to stop it.” What did you witness that complicates that story?

Well, you have impoverished communities. Unfortunately, there has typically been a great deal of corruption in a number of African countries helping to facilitate the trafficking of ivory and rhino horn. You’ve had very lax penalties for poachers and people who are in possession of ivory and rhino horn. And then you’ve also had the issue of supply and demand. All of those things combined. Also, a few years ago, China surpassed having a million millionaires. Typically, China is identified as the largest market and consumer of ivory. And obviously, with those kinds of numbers, if you’re looking at a million millionaires in China wanting a piece of ivory, then that means there aren’t going to be any elephants left.

I’m curious about your perspective as a photographer. Do you have a code of ethics for how much you’re willing to show when it comes to graphic or disturbing images? Are you looking for the shock-value pictures of animals? What’s your approach to that?

I think what I have been incorporating in my coverage — whether it’s my film or also in the capacity of a photographer — I had a cover story in Smithsonian last month on the race to stop Africa’s elephant poachers — and for me it’s really, I think, very much about capturing the contrast. There’s the horror of poaching. And of course, capturing the beauty that still exists in recognition that some of these elephant populations that I photograph are likely not to exist 10 years from now.

I’m trying to contextualize it. I think that for people far away from these ecosystems it’s really hard to fathom that 100,000 elephants have been killed in the last few years. And I’m trying to also conceptualize how this is impacting ecosystems and how this is affecting the way elephant herds and families are behaving and the stress they’re having to endure. I was on the border of Chad and the Central African Republic in March recording the tracking of an elephant herd, and there were 12 elephants in this herd and you had these bulls — male elephants — with very young elephants, which typically you would never see. It looked like the elephants that were being collared had been previously shot. On top of the fact that this small pocket and population seemed to be something I’d describe as a refugee population: they’re becoming sort of genetically isolated and there’s really not much hope for a herd like that to survive in the long term. So I think particularly in Central Africa, that’s a pattern that’s emerging.

What’s your take on the effort to protect the elephants and to stop the poachers? Does there seem to be any hope? What else is needed to make a difference and tip the point back in favor of the elephants?

It’s such a multi-pronged approach. It really requires governments across the world examining their policies on the ivory trade and having stiffer penalties. The U.S. has really been leading that in the last few months. There used to be an illegal trade and a legal trade in ivory, and now it’s just illegal. The import of tusks from trophy hunting in Zimbabwe and Tanzania has been banned. And I think governments across Europe and, of course, China, need to really assess what their stance is and to what extent they’re going to enforce a ban on the trade of ivory. So that’s one thing. Simultaneously you have anti-poaching efforts and then also drones are being introduced as a deterrent, and also in order to better track and keep track of wildlife populations. And then stiffer penalties in Africa and stronger law enforcement, along with people’s awareness being raised about the issue. There isn’t a lot of hope unless all these things are happening simultaneously.

Would you say raising awareness is your main goal for the documentary?

Yeah, absolutely. That’s why I began working on this project. So at different times throughout my career I’ve worked on documentary projects on issues that I feel very strongly about. The first one was relating to Russian orphan children with special needs back in 1998, and I spent most of the last 10-plus years covering conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan and across the Middle East. Generally my motivation for that work was documenting history, and I’ve always been compelled by issues of human rights. With the poaching crisis, my feeling about it is that, you know, I’m not worried about human extinction. I am, however, very concerned about the extinction of elephants and rhinos in my lifetime.

Maybe extinction is a really strong word, but I think wildlife certainly isn’t going to exist in the way that we typically conceptualize it. And these populations we’re talking about will end up being very diminished populations.

What has the response been like so far to the reporting you’ve been doing?

The article I did in Smithsonian got a huge response. Chelsea Clinton tweeted about it. Lots and lots of readers wrote in wanting to know what they could do to help and thanking the magazine for having commissioned the reporting. So I think it’s an issue people really care about. They’re just not that aware of it and I see it all the time. I just come across random people and they say “I had no idea” or children who become aware of it and are completely alarmed.

What do you tell people who want to know what they can do to help?

I suggest different organizations that I think are working hard to conserve wildlife in Africa. I frequently on my own Twitter and Facebook recommend petitions. There was a petition last year that went out related to a show on NBC — “Under Wild Skies” — in which a hunter shot an elephant. It asked NBC to take this program off the air because it glorifies the killing of an animal that’s endangered, it got 50,000 signatures and NBC took the show off the air. Something similar happened with “Antiques Road Show” in which there was a petition for them to stop doing value assessments of ivory on air. That was also effective. So I frequently put out petitions to people that I think are worthy, and I think it’s important to keep these issues in the forefront of policy makers.

It’s nice to know that petitions and signatures do work. I think there are lots of ways in which people can be proactive. It’s not necessarily an issue of money. It’s about expressing a voice.

Africa's Poaching Epedmic.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare published a study into the illegal wildlife trade in June 2013 that calculated that an elephant dies to poaching every 15 minutes. Some elephants are shot, while others are poisoned with arrows or pieces of metal. This one was poisoned in the Masai Mara. (Kate Brooks/The Last Animals/Redux Pictures)

Africa's Poaching Epedmic.

Kenya Wildlife Service rangers patrol through Ramuruti forest in Laikipia, Kenya, a corridor for elephants. In April 2013 a number of elephants were killed there, including this one, now a skeleton. (Kate Brooks/The Last Animals/Redux Pictures)

Africa's Poaching Epedmic.

The carcass of an elephant named Bonsai who was shot several times in June 2013, lies in the park with two rangers in the background. Bonsai’s mother was also killed by poachers. (Kate Brooks/The Last Animals/Redux Pictures)

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

Lindsay Abrams

 

African Elephants May Be Extinct By 2020 Because People Keep Eating With Ivory Chopsticks   6 comments

Reblogged from Huffington Post :

Chopsticks, hair pins, pendants, trinkets: These are why African elephants are dying in droves.

In 2013, more than 35,000 elephants across Africa were killed for their ivory, which is often carved and sold as ornaments, jewelry and other gift items. China is a major importer of ivory, where it’s highly prized as a luxury good. Ivory sellers also do a roaring trade in Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and other parts of Asia; and troublingly, demand seems to be rising.

“Ivory is beautiful,” long-time ranger and conservationist Rory Young admits. “The problem is, we just can’t do this anymore.”

If we don’t stop the slaughter soon, he told The Huffington Post over Skype on Tuesday, not only will there be no more ivory to carve or sell, but no African elephants left on the planet, either.

In 2008, conservationists warned that African elephants would become extinct by 2020 if widespread poaching continued. Young says that given the current rate of slaughter, he’s “absolutely convinced” that African elephants could indeed be annihilated in the next six years.

ivory trinketsA customer, left, shops for ivory bracelets at an ivory shop in Nakhon Sawan province, 130 miles north of Bangkok, Thailand, April 17, 2002.

“It’s difficult to know where to start,” Young said, when asked to describe the extent of the African elephant poaching problem. “I could take you tomorrow to a park and show you fresh carcasses. It’s a tidal wave of destruction flooding across the continent.”

A ranger in Africa for more than two decades, Young has for years been on the forefront of the fight against poaching. He was one of the founders of Chengeta Wildlife, an organization that works to equip and train wildlife protection teams, and he now travels across Africa, training aspiring rangers and connecting with governments to urge them to adopt anti-poaching campaigns.

It’s a constant uphill battle.

Poachers are dangerous. They sometimes arm themselves with machine guns, and their tactics are unpredictable — and brutal. Sometimes elephants are shot, but they are also trapped with snares and poisoned. Last year, for instance, poachers in Zimbabwe killed more than 300 elephants by lacing waterholes in Hwange National Park with cyanide.

Warning: Graphic photos below.

The challenge to protect these majestic creatures becomes even greater in areas of conflict and abject poverty.

“In well-funded, ‘celebrity-endorsed’ places like parts of Kenya and South Africa, poaching is bad enough, but if you look at other countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, et cetera, elephants are just being wiped out,” said Young. “These are the countries that are absolutely desperate, and what I’m trying to do and what Chengeta is trying to do is to bring training to the guys there — or the elephants will all soon be gone.”

elephant poachA rotting elephant carcass in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, after poachers poisoned waterholes with cyanide, Sept. 29, 2013.

Elephants, said Young, are the “most magnificent creatures.”

“They can empathize. They’re self-aware,” he went on to say. “When I see an elephant lying dead on the ground, it’s like seeing a friend getting shot.”

But if elephants went extinct, we wouldn’t just be losing an extraordinary animal, we’d also have an environmental calamity on our hands.

“Elephants are a keystone species,” said Young. “They have a profound effect on the ecosystem. If you protect an elephant, you protect the environment and all the animals around them.”

african elephant deadIn this photo, taken May 21, 2014, Park rangers stand next to the remains of elephants that were killed by poachers in the Garamba National Park, situated in Democratic Republic of Congo.

The time to act, Young says, is now.

The extinction of African elephants is “not a foregone conclusion,” he insisted. “I’m doing everything I can in my life to stop that from happening. We can stop it.” He also said the bush elephants’ populations can grow very quickly when the animals are left in peace.

But to allow these populations to grow and flourish, everyone has to get involved.

“This is not just one group. It’s not the African poachers, it’s not China, it’s everyone. It takes governments in Africa actually doing something about the poachers on the ground; it takes an education system to teach the people — kids in the schools, the villagers — telling them it’s wrong. The same applies to people in Asia, who are buying the stuff,” said Young. “It shouldn’t be easy to buy ivory. It shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

It’s also about raising awareness on a global scale, he added.

“When Jackie Chan stands up [to speak against the ivory trade], a kid might be watching and he might tell his dad to not go out to buy that ivory envelope opener, but to buy a gold one instead. It takes a whole movement all around us to fix the problem. Everyone’s responsible; everyone’s to blame.”

To draw attention to the work that Rory Young and Chengeta Wildlife are doing, this infographic was recently created to highlight the “true cost of ivory trinkets.” Scroll down to see it in full:

ivory trinkets
Infographic byJoe Chernov and Robin Richards.

To find out more about the African elephant and how you can help, visit the websites of the WWF, Save the Elephants and Chengeta Wildlife.

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