Ivory Trade by Abbie Barnes

May 8th, 2013 | By | Category: Youth Blog

Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

It is estimated that in 2011 over 25,000 elephants were brutally killed for their ivory, nearly 7% of the total African elephant population.

Ivory (elephant tusk) has been used throughout history, all around the globe, to create ornaments, jewelry, and other highly-prized possessions  It was made illegal to sell and trade in 2000, when CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) agreed on ‘no more trade’. Despite this, ivory offers a large income for many hunters and as a result, the black market thrives on this ‘white gold’. In the 1990’s, ivory could be sold at $100 per kilogram, but by 2007 that price had risen to $850 per kilogram. The current price in 2012 easily exceeds these earlier prices. Not surprisingly, in a 10 year period from 1979 – 1989, poaching decimated the African elephant population from 1.3million to fewer than 600,000 animals.

The ivory trade is driven mainly by countries such as China and Thailand, which buy the raw material, carve it into ornate objects which are then sold at exceedingly high prices. “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.

On the other hand, Hong Lei, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the government has taken a solid stance on ivory trafficking by introducing laws and regulations, and that they have “made significant efforts in enforcing them.” He strongly feels that they are reducing the amount of elephants killed to fund this trade, and that they will keep up their good work in the future. There are very few environmentalists, conservationists and professionals that agree.

Elephants are extremely sociable and emotional animals: they live in extensive herds lead by a matriarch who may live for over 70 years. Recently, within South Africa, elephant culling has been legalized in an attempt to control numbers, while in other African states elephants are seeing their numbers plummet. It seems abuse towards these highly intelligent creatures is rife throughout the world: once shot, (even if not dead) the elephant will have its tusk hacked off with axes, or occasionally chainsaws, leaving behind a bloody mass of tissue and flesh. New methods of killing are continuously being invented – poisoning has become a common technique, but it frequently leads to numerous other animal species being killed by the deadly toxin.

Fortunately, there are many determined people and groups fighting on behalf of elephants, such as BornFree and WWF (World Wildlife Fund). They are working hard to educate local people and trades as to why it is so important that elephants are conserved, provide sufficient methods of income for people that rely on this illegal trade, and finally, they campaign towards better systems of control for this terrible trade, by training rangers and leaders and reducing the need for sales in China and Thailand.



By Abbie Barnes, Volunteer Youth Blogger


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