At the dawn of human civilization, ivory was a crucial part of tools that helped humans survive and evolve. Its durability proved useful when being crafted into a part of a hammer or hunting weapon. But as time went on, the use of ivory changed. It’s now used as a fashion statement for people, their houses and objects such as collector’s weapons. The race to find this pretty white material is continuously on and it includes cash, smuggling, and the death thousands of elephants.
In the late 70’s the African elephant population was at roughly 1.3 million. 10 years later it dropped to 600,000. Most Ivory traders in the Africa blame it on the local village fences, saying, “it disrupts elephant migration patterns, and in turn separates the herd completely.” In reality, only about 20% of elephant deaths were due to fencing. The other 80% were ruthlessly murdered for their ivory tusks.
In 1989, Zimbabwe attempted to try to create a party called CITES, or Convention of the International Trade in Endangered Species, to fight for the ban of illegal ivory trade. Battles sparked between CITES and the opposing individuals, with Zimbabwe eventually deciding that their elephant population was perfectly under control and that the money ivory brings in could help fund the conservation of the African elephants. South Africa followed suit. Tanzania, however, tried to destroy the ivory trade syndicates, even though it was considered a hotspot for illegal ivory trade. An ivory trade ban finally went in effect in 1990.
South Africa was still not having any of it. They joined forces with Hong Kong and Japan, who supported the ivory trade. Even though the South Africans didn’t see a problem in the trade, their neighboring countries were filled with news reports about the slaughter of elephants. To add to this, 95% of the African elephants at the time were centralized in Kruger National Park, which was defended by the South African Defense Force. The Defense Force supported a rebel group, Renamo. Most of the money to fund Renamo came from ivory smuggling. An alarming conflict of interest, right?
But the largest poaching problem in recent years has been coming out of China. China has a big problem with being able to regulate how much ivory is produced. It’s said they deal out of an illegal stockpile of around 121 tons of ivory, or about 11,000 elephant tusks. Most of the ivory is dealt by Chinese nationals illegally working on the African continent to continue to trade ivory.
Elephant poaching has brought millions of dirty dollars to ivory kingpins and is still a major problem today. Poacher’s still exist all over the world and continue to threaten the elephant population and even the population of walruses, narwhals, and other mammals with valuable skin and bones. If it doesn’t stop, we may be only able to see elephants in history books.
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