The fight to save the elephants: 1 killed every 15 minutesBy Graham Land Oct 09, 2013 6:00AM UTC
On October 4 thousands of people in different cities across the world marched against the ivory trade. Environmentalists and animal rights activists gathered in places including New York, London, Melbourne, Bangkok, Wellington, Nairobi and Cape Town to protest against the pending extinction of the elephant. According to the conservationist group iWorry, one elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory – as many as 36,000 last year alone. At this rate there could be no more elephants in the wild within 12 years.
Long-time elephant activist Daphne Sheldrick writes in National Geographic:
Among the demands of the International March for Elephants are: a strengthening of laws and penalties associated with wildlife crime in countries where poaching and ivory trafficking occurs; increased levels of investment in anti-poaching initiatives by international governments; increased diplomatic pressure on countries where elephants live; and pressure on those nations that fuel the demand.
Most elephant poaching takes place in Africa, while demand for ivory is highest in Asia, especially in China. And while efforts against poaching are being stepped up in some source countries – Tanzania’s tourism minister controversially stated at last Friday’s International March for Elephants that poachers should be executed “on the spot” – the poachers themselves are constantly finding newer ways to kill.
In Zimbabwe’s Hwange Park poachers recently killed 91 elephants by spreading cyanide over salt licks. This subtler way of killing is extremely difficult to combat. The process is slow and the results are normally only spotted due to vultures circling over elephant carcasses. The environmental impact is also more severe with cyanide poisoning as is evidenced by “scores” of dead vultures.
From the Associated Press:
Kasukuwere said Hwange park, Africa’s third largest wildlife sanctuary after the Serengeti in Tanzania and South Africa’s Kruger National Park, has only about 150 rangers and few fully operational off-road vehicles for an expanse that ideally should have a staff of at least 700.
Nor can authorities afford to maintain helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft spotter patrols. The environment minister said officials have begun to work with local village communities on the fringe of the park to report the presence of cyanide and that four kilograms (eight pounds) of the deadly poison have so far been recovered.
In the United States, where demand for ivory is also high, the Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to crush its ivory stockpiles “in order to make a statement”. This could be linked to recent reports that the illegal ivory trade is being used to fund terrorism, such as the recent attack on a shopping mall in Kenya. Currently a Kenyan conservation activist is walking 900km (560 miles) in the northeast of the US in order to draw attention to the plight of elephants and that “America is still the second leading consumer of ivory.” Read more about that from Voice of America.