Archive for the ‘Ivory’ Tag

Black rhino horns and elephant tusks for auction: activists outraged   1 comment

From:  The Sydney Morning Herald – New South Wales

 

By  Esther Han

 

A rhinoceros in the wild.

 

A rhinoceros in the wild. Photo: Greg Newington/AFR

WARNING: Some readers may find picture below disturbing

Conservation groups have joined forces to stop the auction of black rhinoceros horns and elephant tusks in Sydney on Friday, saying the sales will increase demand and consequently poaching, which is decimating the species.

Auction house Lawsons, based in Leichhardt, expects the bidding war for the black rhino horns to hit $70,000; the pair of unmounted African elephant tusks to reach $70,000, and the embellished elephant tusks with a gong  to reach $16,000.

A white rhinoceros killed by poachers for its horns in 2012.

A white rhinoceros killed by poachers for its horns in 2012. Photo: Humane Society International

Humane Society International (HSI), with backing from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Greenpeace, is demanding Lawsons pull the items from auction and change its policies to prevent similar items from surfacing in the future.

“The pressure on the remaining wildlife populations of rhino in Africa, India and [south east] Asia is such that all efforts must be made to stop rhino horn being trafficked,” wrote Alexia Wellbelove, senior program manager at HSI, in a letter to Martin Farrah, managing director at Lawsons.

“Even the export of one antique horn from Australia onto south-east Asia markets further promotes and encourages trade, perpetuating this devastating cycle of killing.”

 

A pair of elephant ivory tusks expected to fetch up to $70,000 at an auction on Friday

A pair of elephant ivory tusks expected to fetch up to $70,000 at an auction on Friday Photo: Lawsons Auctioneers

Ms Wellbelove said two letters expressing concern were ignored, and in a follow-up phone call last week Mr Farrah told her: “We have nothing else to say.”

The world rhino population has dropped from 500,000 at the start of the 20th century to just 29,000 because of poaching, according to the Save the Rhino organisation based in London.

The price of rhino horns has skyrocketed in the past decade because of rising demand from Chinese and Vietnamese people who believe it can cure cancer and be used as an aphrodisiac.

In March, Lawsons sold a pair of rhino horns mounted on a wooden plinth for $92,500 – a figure that shocked antique and auction experts across the country.

Simon Hill, general manager of Lawsons, said the black rhino horns belonged to a Cairns woman who inherited them from her father who migrated from Africa to Australia in 1950.

He said the auction house has contacted the federal environment department to obtain approval for Friday’s sale of the 4.6 kilogram rhino horns set and elephant tusks.

Under Australian law, the import and export of rhino horns dated from 1950 is banned and, since July, anyone wishing to export vintage rhino horns must conclusively prove its age through radiocarbon dating.

A department spokesman confirmed to Fairfax Media that investigators had assessed the specimens and were satisfied of their lawful origins. The department granted approval for the domestic sale of the three items only.

Mr Hill said it was only the third time since 1999 that he had seen rhino horns up for auction at Lawsons.

“I understand [the conservationists’] concerns and we have them equally. We take it very, very seriously and that’s why we go through the relevant bodies to make sure we’re doing the right thing,” he said.

“I would not know if there is any direct correlation of the selling of antique items and increasing in poaching. If there was, I’d love to see the hard data on it.”

So far this year, 969 rhinos have been poached in South Africa, according Save the Rhino. It claims poaching is “dramatically increasing”.

The Western black rhino was declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2011. All five remaining species are listed on its threatened species Redlist, with three classified as critically endangered.

“Elephant populations are also in big trouble in Africa and elsewhere. By continuing to sell elephant ivory, we’re continuing to create demand and therefore increase poaching the populations can’t sustain,” Ms Wellbelove from HSI said.

On Tuesday, Greenpeace rallied its 400,000 supporters via email, urging them to contact Mr Farrah to demand he pull the horns and ivory from Friday’s Natural History, Taxidermy and Science auction and change Lawsons’ policies.

An International Fund for Animal Welfare report released this year revealed the number of products derived from endangered animals offered for sale on Australian websites has more than doubled since 2008.

A pair of black rhinoceros horns expected to fetch $70,000 at Lawsons auction on Friday.

A pair of black rhinoceros horns expected to fetch $70,000 at Lawsons auction on Friday. Photo: Lawsons Auctioneers

English: A Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)...

English: A Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in Tanzania Deutsch: Spitzmaulnashorn (Diceros bicornis) in Tanzania Français : Rhinocéros noir Nederlands: Zwarte neushoorn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Male Diceros bicornis (Black rhinoceros or Hoo...

Male Diceros bicornis (Black rhinoceros or Hook-lipped rhinoceros) at the Saint Louis Zoological Park in Missouri Français : Rhinocéros noir (Diceros bicornis) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tanzanian ivory not being sold to Chinese diplomats, allegations of buying sprees fabricated: officials   2 comments

From: abc.net.au

Updated Sat at 4:31amSat 8 Nov 2014, 4:31am

Tanzanian officials have dismissed claims Chinese diplomatic and military staff have purchased illegal white ivory while on official visits to East Africa made by an environmental activist group.

The country’s foreign minister said the report by the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) was a “fabrication” designed to upset growing ties between Tanzania and China.

“We should ask ourselves as to why these allegations are surfacing a few days before (Tanzanian) president Jakaya Kikwete‘s visit to China,” foreign minister Bernard Membe told parliament.

“These are mere fabrications.

“It is obvious that perpetrators of these allegations are people who do not wish to see our country attain development.

“The false reports were made out of jealousy seeing that Tanzania enjoys cordial relations with China.”

The minister asserted that the two countries have been sharing intelligence reports which have enabled numerous interceptions of ivory destined for China from Tanzania.

“China is doing a lot to help us solve this wildlife-threatening crime,” Tanzania’s tourism minister Lazaro Nyalandu said.

“It is easy to see how cooked-up the report is, because saying that the Chinese president‘s plane was used to carry tusks is illogical.

“Such crafts are usually heavily guarded and surrounded by hundreds of people, leaving no room for any foul play.”

Embassy staff ivory ‘major buyers’ since 2006

According to the EIA, when Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Tanzania in March 2013 members of his government and business delegation bought so much ivory that local prices doubled.

The group quoted ivory traders as saying the buyers took advantage of a lack of security checks for diplomatic visitors to smuggle their purchases back to China on Xi’s plane.

The report said similar sales were made on a previous trip by China’s former president Hu Jintao and Chinese embassy staff have been “major buyers” since at least 2006.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei also described the report as “groundless”.

Tens of thousands of elephants are estimated to be slaughtered in Africa each year to feed rising Asian demand for ivory products.

Reports said the demand comes mostly from China – the continent’s biggest trading partner.

Almost all ivory sales were banned in 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to which both China and Tanzania are signatories.

Reuters

 

Illegal killing for ivory drives global decline in African elephants   Leave a comment

Proceedings of the National Academy of Science...

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tusks of African and Asian elephants.

Tusks of African and Asian elephants. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

African Elephant in Okaukuejo, Etosha, Namibia...

African Elephant in Okaukuejo, Etosha, Namibia. Rushing for the waterhole at sundown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Difference between Asian (left) and African (r...

Difference between Asian (left) and African (right) elephant ears. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reblogged from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences :

Significance

Illegal harvest for commercial trade has recently surged to become a major threat to some of the world’s most endangered and charismatic species. Unfortunately, the cryptic nature of illegal killing makes estimation of rates and impacts difficult. Applying a model based on field census of carcasses, to our knowledge we provide the first detailed assessment of African elephant illegal killing rates at population, regional, and continental scales. Illegal harvest for commercial trade in ivory has recently surged, coinciding with increases in illegal ivory seizures and black market ivory prices. As a result, the species declined over the past 4 y, during which tens of thousands of elephants have been killed annually across the continent. Solutions to this crisis require global action.

Abstract

Illegal wildlife trade has reached alarming levels globally, extirpating populations of commercially valuable species. As a driver of biodiversity loss, quantifying illegal harvest is essential for conservation and sociopolitical affairs but notoriously difficult. Here we combine field-based carcass monitoring with fine-scale demographic data from an intensively studied wild African elephant population in Samburu, Kenya, to partition mortality into natural and illegal causes. We then expand our analytical framework to model illegal killing rates and population trends of elephants at regional and continental scales using carcass data collected by a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species program. At the intensively monitored site, illegal killing increased markedly after 2008 and was correlated strongly with the local black market ivory price and increased seizures of ivory destined for China. More broadly, results from application to continental data indicated illegal killing levels were unsustainable for the species between 2010 and 2012, peaking to ∼8% in 2011 which extrapolates to ∼40,000 elephants illegally killed and a probable species reduction of ∼3% that year. Preliminary data from 2013 indicate overharvesting continued. In contrast to the rest of Africa, our analysis corroborates that Central African forest elephants experienced decline throughout the last decade. These results provide the most comprehensive assessment of illegal ivory harvest to date and confirm that current ivory consumption is not sustainable. Further, our approach provides a powerful basis to determine cryptic mortality and gain understanding of the demography of at-risk species.

Footnotes

  • Author contributions: G.W., J.B., I.D.-H., P.O., and K.P.B. designed research; G.W., J.M.N., J.B., and I.D.-H. performed research; G.W., J.B., P.O., and K.P.B. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; G.W., J.M.N., J.B., and K.P.B. analyzed data; and G.W. wrote the paper.

  • The authors declare no conflict of interest.

  • This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

  • This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.1403984111/-/DCSupplemental.

Freely available online through the PNAS open access option.

Legal ivory sale will create grey market – IOL SciTech | IOL.co.za   2 comments

Legal ivory sale will create grey market – IOL SciTech | IOL.co.za.

Cape Town – South Africa’s probable application to sell its ivory stockpile in a new “one-off sale” in two years will face increased opposition, from within the country and internationally.

This is apparent from recent developments that include:

l A symbolic burning of mock “ivory” at a Cape Town beach to mark International Elephant Day this week.

l The destruction of ivory in several countries like the US, France and China in the past year.

l The banning of all ivory and rhino horn trade from this month by the US states of New York and New Jersey.

l The publication of a peer-reviewed essay in the scientific journal Conservation Biology that calls for a ban on all ivory sales for at least 10 years – including antique ivory.

Also, mounting concern about ivory poaching has been fuelled by confirmation by SA National Parks in May that the first elephant poached for its tusks “in well over 10 years” had been killed in the Kruger National Park, followed by a second last month, also in the northern Pafuri region of the park.

In October 1989, elephants were listed under Appendix 1 of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which effectively banned all trade in this species, including ivory.

Although the animals were “downlisted” to Cites Appendix 2 during a meeting in the Netherlands in July 2007, meaning trade in elephant products was allowed under permit, a moratorium on ivory sales was maintained, pending development of internationally agreed safeguards to prevent poached ivory from being laundered.

Since then, there have been three controlled “one-off” ivory sales by elephant range countries sanctioned by Cites: 49 tons in 1997; another 60 tons in 2006; and a further 108 tons in 2008, where Japan and China were accredited to bid for ivory from South Africa (51.1 tons), Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. A nine-year ban on any further trade came into effect after this sale. In July last year, the cabinet took a firm decision to seek permission from Cites for a further one-off sale of South Africa’s ivory stockpile from natural mortalities and seized contraband, and will apply at the convention’s 17th Conference of Parties in South Africa in 2016. However, the government also said it would listen to all arguments before formulating its final application to Cites.

At a news conference this week to announce the cabinet’s approval of new initiatives to counter rhino poaching, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa reminded journalists of the government’s policy of sustainable utilisation. In theory, this supports the commercial use of all animal products, including ivory and rhino horn.

The government’s view is that the substantial funds generated by ivory sales can be ploughed back into conservation. Also, a legal supply will sharply reduce demand and price for poached ivory, this argument goes. The same applies to rhino horn. But a strong conservation lobby argues that this doesn’t work in practice.

The “Cape Town Burn” event was organised by the Conservation Action Trust, which says elephants may face extinction in the wild and that at least 20 000 of them were killed for their tusks last year. The influx of legal ivory into the main market in China “simply… created a grey market”, said the trust’s Francis Garrard.

“The insatiable demand for ivory… now threatens the very survival of elephants in many countries, with governments, including our own, continuing to accumulate stockpiles of ivory, perpetuating the concept that there is a commercial value for ivory.”

In her essay in Conservation Biology, Elizabeth Bennett, the vice-president for species conservation at the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, says the illegal ivory trade has more than doubled since 2007 and that African elephants are facing “the most serious conservation crisis since 1989”.

john.yeld@inl.co.za

Too little, too late for elephants

In 1979, there were an estimated 1.3 million African elephants, but today there are just 470 000 – and some authorities estimate a much lower number, says the Kenya Elephant Forum.

“The loss of a million elephants has been due primarily to killing for ivory. Natural habitat loss is a second important factor: human population has tripled in elephant range states since 1970.”

Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) identified eight countries last year as the worst offenders in the illegal ivory trade chain: supply states Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda; consumer states China and Thailand; and transit countries Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

There have been at least four symbolic events in which ivory has been destroyed in the past year to highlight poaching and the illegal ivory market:

l At an event in Denver in November last year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service used a gravel crusher to destroy six tons of illegal elephant ivory tusks, trinkets and souvenirs seized over 20 years.

l In January, more than six tons of illegal ivory was chipped and ground into powder in Guangzhou, China.

l In February, France became the first European country to destroy its stocks of illegal ivory, crushing three tons of ivory at a Paris site in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

l In May, a burning in Hong Kong marked the first stage of the government’s plans to destroy its 28-ton stockpile of ivory confiscated over years.

Stepping up the fight against elephant poachers   1 comment

NIGHT STALKERS who hunt and kill African elephants for their ivory are threatening the existence of that species. And even the most drastic protective measures by conservationists are not enough. We caution you that some of the images in this Cover Story are painful to watch. M. Sanjayan of Conservation International is a CBS News Contributor:

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/stepping-up-the-fight-against-elephant-poachers/

This story was broadcast on March 9, 2014.

As a cloudless day yields to a moonlit night in this savannah in Northern Kenya, a dozen wildlife rangers armed with automatic weapons begin their nightly patrol.

Tonight, the team is on edge, says Commander John Palmieri.

“They give us a big, big worry,” he said, as there is more poaching on the full moon.

And it is a deadly business. Dozens of rangers have been killed in Africa battling poachers in the last few years.

Each night, rangers go up to an observation point at higher ground, then sit all night long and scour these valleys, looking for any sign of movement, or a gunshot.

Night vision goggles help spot elephants — and see potential human threats.

For this night at least, it was all quiet for Nature’s so-called “great masterpiece.”

The African elephant is the largest mammal to walk the Earth; a majestic creature that shares many noble characteristics with humans — strong family units and maternal bonds, intelligence, longevity and, yes, terrific memories.

Also, like us, they seem to grieve, and appear to mourn their dead, a trait which, tragically, has been on display far too often of late.

Some 25,000 elephants a year are now being lost to poachers in Africa.

“It’s the worst that it’s been in the last 30 years,” said Ian Craig. “It’s a steady deterioration, and it’s getting worse.”

The Kenyan-born Craig leads conservation efforts for the Northern Rangelands Trust, an innovative partnership of nearly 20 wildlife conservancies.

In years past, said Craig, the typical poacher was a solitary local simply trying to feed his family. Today, though, foreign criminal syndicates with sophisticated equipment kill viciously and in ever greater numbers.

In an infamous 2012 episode, an estimated 300 elephants were gunned down in Cameroon right inside a national park.

So who’s behind it?

“I think clearly China is driving this, or it’s coming from the Far East,” said Craig. “Ninety percent of the ivory being picked up in Nairobi Airport, or Kenya’s port of entry and exit, is with Chinese nationals.”

Despite laws banning the harvest and sale of ivory, it remains a powerful status symbol in China and the Far East, where it is used commonly to make artworks and religious icons.

The economic boom there has tripled the price of ivory in just the last four years. And it has rejuvenated the poaching economy in Africa.

The price on an elephant’s head, Craig said, is about $2,000, or $2,500 to the gunman

“So it’s several years’ worth of wages from that elephant,” said Sanjayan.

And therefore, said Craig, “People are prepared to risk their lives to kill them.”

You hear about ivory wars, said Sanjayan, but it doesn’t seem real until one comes across an elephant’s carcass … the animal had no chance against being shot by automatic weapons, no chance at all.

And then, it comes flooding right at you, and you can’t escape the fact that people are willing to kill something this big just for a tooth.

There are some encouraging signs.

This past January, China crushed six tons of illegal ivory, and Hong Kong pledged to destroy 28 tons over the next two years.

Kenya has also enacted tougher anti-poaching laws. One smuggler faces seven years in jail.

But the poaching continues . . . and protecting elephants has become an arms race.

Kenya spends tens of millions of dollars a year on its 3,000-member wildlife ranger force.

Tracking dogs hunt poachers in the field and detect ivory being smuggled.

Digital radio systems now connect rangers with observation posts throughout the country. And GPS collars can track family groups of elephants in real time.

They’ve even built wildlife “underpasses” beneath highways, allowing elephants to travel safely through historic migration corridors.

Just as important, is getting locals invested in wildlife. In many areas, tribesmen don’t just lead tours, they run the preserves.

Profits from tourism help communities understand that living elephants can be more valuable than dead ones.

“They’re seeing these new lodges developing,” said Ian Craig. “They’re seeing better security for themselves. They’re seeing money being generated from tourism going into education. And so where these benefits are clean and clear to communities, it’s working.”

But changing attitudes takes time — and time is NOT on the elephant’s side.

From a high of 1.3 million African elephants in the late 1970s, poaching reduced populations to critical levels by 1980.

The numbers are plummeting again: there are only about 500,000 elephants left. If poaching continues unchecked, African elephants could be functionally extinct in our lifetime.

In an extraordinary attempt to save the life of just one animal, a Kenyan veterinarian armed with a tranquilizer dart shot Mountain Bull, a 6-ton local legend who’s been targeted by poachers for his massive tusks.

This magnificent bull elephant has already had lots of interaction with poachers; in one incident alone, he’s been shot 8 times — the slugs are still within his body — but he has survived.

Now conservationists and rangers are doing something dramatic: they’re taking off part of his tusks in the hopes that it will make him less of a target. The operation was over quickly, and eventually the noble giant wobbled to his feet and headed back to the bush to hopefully live out his days in peace.

But sadly is was not meant to be. Recently, the carcass of Mountain Bull was found near the foot of Mt. Kenya attacked with poison spears. The reminiscence of his tusks were unceremonious hacked off by poachers.

Craig worries that unless the lust for ivory is controlled, the elephant may not survive.

“The supply here is finite,” he said. “This isn’t gold. This isn’t diamonds. This is even more precious, because it’s been grown by an animal, and we’re killing that animal to supply that demand.”

For more info:

NRA Pushing Bill to Legalize Ivory Trade, Protect Right to Hunt Endangered Elephants | Ring of Fire   Leave a comment

NRA Pushing Bill to Legalize Ivory Trade, Protect Right to Hunt Endangered Elephants | Ring of Fire.

Posted on August 15, 2014

Poaching elephants for the illegal collection and sale of ivory continues to be a huge problem globally. Last year, the US. Fish and Wildlife Service destroyed nearly six tons of illegal ivory it ha obtained through custom seizures and criminal investigations. Currently the US ranks second only to China in the amount of illegal ivory imported. More than 20,000 elephants were killed across the African continent last year alone, with the countries of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda accounting for around 80 percent of all continental ivory seizures.

The US government is continuing to take steps to combat the ivory trade industry. Last year, the Obama administration announced its National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, which included the ban of commercially traded elephant ivory and the domestic sale of all non-antique ivory. In April of this year, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced a suspension on the import of “sport-hunted African elephant trophies” coming in from Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

A press release said,

“Questionable management practices, a lack of effective law enforcement, and weak governance have resulted in uncontrolled poaching and catastrophic population declines of African elephants in Tanzania. In Zimbabwe [there has been] a significant decline in the elephant population. Anecdotal evidence, such as the widely publicized poisoning last year of 300 elephants in Hwange National Park, suggests that Zimbabwe’s elephants are also under siege.”

Of course the National Rifle Association (NRA) doesn’t see these steps as necessary measures to save the African elephant population from complete extinction; it sees them as an attack on personal freedoms, including the freedom to shoot an endangered species.

Regarding the ban on selling non-antique ivory, the NRA, not mentioning once the damage to the elephant population, called upon its members to contact the White House, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and their US Representative to express their opposition. The NRA called the ban “another attempt by this anti-gun Administration to ban firearms.”

The NRA later released an update on their efforts, announcing that Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) had introduced the Lawful Ivory Protection Act of 2014. The NRA said the bill, which served as a response to the government’s “overreach of authority,” would “protect firearm owners and sportsmen from a federal ban on the sale and trade of objects containing the trade of objects containing lawfully-imported elephant ivory.”

Only briefly and at the end of the update was a mention of the protection of the rights of Americans to hunt elephants in Africa.

“Your actions today may determine if the sale and trade of firearms that contain ivory, as well as the importation of sport-hunted elephants, will be banned.”

If the government completely bans the import of all sport-trophies, the banning of Americans buying elephant-hunting permits from African countries would logically follow at some point. Most Americans actually support the banning of ivory if it meant it would further protect the elephant population.

But, as it did with the universal background checks that were supported by 80 to 90 percent of the public, the NRA is ignoring the greater good for its own selfish interests. It continues to wield its ridiculous power over politicians to sway legislation in its favor.

Amy is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow her on Twitter @AEddings31.

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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