We received some emails with various questions about elephants. Maybe you have some too. We are going to begin to answer these questions every Thursday. Send us a note with yours and you can be featured here too!
QUESTION from Anonymous:
Is China solely responsible for the ivory trade issue, or is there something we need to change here in the States to help?
The Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that the illegal ivory trade is now three times as large as it was in 1998. And seizures of illegal ivory shipments over one ton (or 800 kg) in size have doubled since 2009. A 2011 study from CITES monitored 60 of the locations most-frequented by elephants. They found that an astounding 7.4 percent of those elephants were killed illegally just that year. On those sites, which account for about 40 percent of the entire African population, they estimated that 17,000 elephants were killed.
One wonders, where is all this ivory going? Most of it comes from Africa and ships to countries in Asia. The countries involved in this illegal trade are often called the “Gang of Eight”: the exporters Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda; middleman states Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines; and consumers China and Thailand.
“The Chinese hold the key to the elephants’ future,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants. “If things continue the way they are, many countries could lose their elephants altogether.”
And since the beginning of 2012, more than 32,000 elephants have been illegally killed, claims the Born Free Foundation, a wildlife organization. Conservationists say the majority of ivory is sold to China, where it sells for more than $1,300 a pound on the black market.
“China is clearly driving the illegal ivory trade more than any other nation on earth,” said Tom Milliken, an elephant expert with the wildlife trade-monitoring network Traffic.
It would be easy to solely blame China. And evidence does show that much of the ivory trade is based on Asian consumption. However, China is not alone in it’s transgressions. In America, and other countries where the issue of ivory seems irrelevant and almost non-existent, we participate in the ivory trade through apathy. Most people don’t realize that elephants will be extinct in some parts of Africa by 2020. And when we do learn about it, nothing is done. Apathy, the lack of concern and indifference, is just as bad as poaching. America, through apathy, should be listed with the “Gang of Eight” because standing by and idly watching while an entire species is destroyed carries the same amount of bloodshed as poaching. (Check out this latest blog post on apathy, the greatest threat to elephants, for more details).
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