Massacred – 30 Elephants Die for Their Ivory
Yesterday’s news of 30 elephants that were killed for their tusks in Chad over the past week is a grim reminder of the devastating impact that the trade in ivory is having on wild elephants. It is estimated that Chad has lost about 40% of its elephant population since 2006 (down from 4000 to approximately 2500 today).
Yesterday’s news of 30 elephants that were killed for their tusks in Chad over the past week is a grim reminder of the devastating impact that the trade in ivory is having on wild elephants. It is estimated that Chad has lost about 40% of its elephant population since 2006 (down from 4000 to approximately 2500 today). I would say that this is pretty alarming and I wonder what is happening in other parts of Central Africa, notably in the Congo Basin. You see, this is part of the problem – there is very little reliable data out there to give us even a semi-decent estimate of the extent of the poaching problem – and this is true for elephants across a large part of their continental range. So, like many others I am left to wonder. But, given reports of poaching and illicit trade that come across my desk regularly, I am led to believe that things are not good for elephants out there.
Attempts have been made in the past to try and determine whether legal ivory sales lead to increased poaching and illicit trade. The result is that, even for the mathematically adept, it is really difficult to determine such causality with any level of assurance. The reason why is because of the scanty nature of the data. Even though such monitoring programmes as the one established back in 1997 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), namely, Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE), have attempted to shed light on this issue, the reality is that, unless the reporting of poaching incidents from the field is comprehensive and accurate, we will continue to look at only a part of the picture. I would argue that we are looking at a very small part of the picture and that what we know through existing monitoring programmes is a gross underestimate of what is really going on out there.
This brings me to what I believe is the real issue and one that needs to be addressed if we want to stop the slaughter of elephants in the wild – is there a place for ivory in this day and age and is it good enough that 30 elephants in Chad have just been killed to meet demand for ivory, notably in the East? I pose this question because, as long as markets for ivory exist, elephants will continue to be killed in the wild. Traditions and cultures evolve over time and I cannot fathom, how in this day and age, the use of ivory in whatever form to “blow your own trumpet”, is still being promoted…. Ivory is nothing more than a status symbol and a bloody one at that.
While debate will continue for a very long time as to whether the legal trade has resulted in increased poaching and illicit trade, for as long as markets for ivory exist that is, the bottom line is that elephants continue to be killed for their ivory. Whether it’s one elephant in Kenya, two elephants in Sri Lanka, ten elephants in Zambia or 30 elephants in Chad, this is unacceptable. The killing needs to stop and the only way this will happen is if consumers worldwide take a stand against buying ivory.
In the meantime, IFAW will continue working with government agencies to address poaching problems in crisis areas. At the moment we are working in the Congo Basin and have just finished supporting anti-poaching training in Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Congo. We hope to continue “putting out fires” until the bigger policy issues are addressed and ultimately all trade in ivory is banned.