The now infamous footage of a “woolly mammoth” wading across a river in Siberia provided some light relief in an otherwise fairly depressing week. The footage (originally shot by Australian documentary filmmaker Lou Petho and then doctored by another Australian, “paranormal writer”, Michael Cohen) circulated the globe in record time. Millions of people clicked on the video and it was news in leading media around the world.
I wish as many people had seen the news about the terrible elephant massacre in Bouba Ndjida National Park in northern Cameroon, near the border with Chad. Last week it was confirmed that over two hundred elephants had been cut down by machine guns by Sudanese poachers to feed an insatiable appetite for ivory.
While mammoths have been extinct for thousands of years, their modern relatives, elephants, aren’t doing so well either. Poaching is on the increase and if the demand for ivory keeps skyrocketing, there is a real risk of extinction of populations in West and Central Africa countries within our lifetime.
It seems utterly insane that these incredibly complex, social and intelligent animals are being killed for their teeth. What on earth is wrong with someone who would want an animal to die just for a trinket, a letter seal or pair of chopsticks? Do these people even know that every single piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant?
Amazingly when we did some research fairly recently we discovered that 40% of Australians think elephants are not harmed by removing their tusks. Without going into gory detail (check this out), elephants are killed for their tusks and their children left to starve. This is the grim reality of the ivory trade – a trade that is very much alive and kicking, not consigned to the history books where it belongs.
2011 was a deadly year for elephants, with nearly 5,000 tusks intercepted in large-scale seizures and this is just the tip of the iceberg - these seizures represent just a fraction of the actual illegal trade, and just a fraction of the elephants being brutally slaughtered to supply nothing more than vanity and status symbols.
Australia may seem a long way from the plains of Africa but the news of a raid in Auckland, New Zealand and the seizure of tusks in Malaysia, is a reminder that this cruel trade is a global phenomenon.
The solution is simple – if we stop the demand, we stop the killing. Next time you see an ivory trinket for sale, here or overseas – just think about where it came from. It doesn’t matter how old it is purported to be. Every single piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant. Don’t support its trade - don’t buy it, don’t sell it. Tell your friends, family and colleagues. Let’s make sure the ivory trade, not elephants, becomes extinct.