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Elephant poaching

Grab the dragon by the tail?


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I would like to say something again I have said many times before.

But let me back up a bit first.

Clearly, elephants are in crisis in Africa. Surveys are now ongoing in several locations to see how many remain. One survey, funded by the Frankfurt Zoological Society, indicated that the huge area known as the Selous in Tanzania has about 13,800 elephants left.

Down from an estimated 70,000 in 2009 – so a reduction of 80%. In FIVE years….

It is probably as grim everywhere else in Africa. I don’t know why some people, like the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group, still insist that there are something like 600,000 elephants in Africa. They don’t even acknowledge the crucial genetic difference between forest and savannah elephants. As with CITES, an elephant is an elephant with the IUCN. Forest elephants, Loxodonta cyclotis, are critically endangered. Lumping them together with savannah elephants might increase overall numbers, but should not fool us.

One of the major causes of elephant population decreases, if not the most important reason, is poaching. We all know this.

Africans do the poaching and Chinese do the buying. We also all know this.

So where to most effectively prevent the slaughter?

Africa is far too corrupt to make any real changes soon. In Kenya it is alleged that the poaching kingpins rank high in government and are immune from prosecution.

In China, good organizations like WildAid are attempting to make inroads into the levels of ivory consumption. But that will also take long.

So where should pressure be placed?

China again. Although the Chinese say they are against the illegal trafficking of ivory (and indeed have destroyed some illegal ivory earlier this year) they still insist that the African ivory being sold in their shops is legal and derived from the CITES-approved sale in 2008.

Let’s just make some strides in this.

Test the ivory that is being carved and sold. It is not difficult and the DNA techniques are in place – for example in the laboratory of Sam Wasser in Seattle in the USA. Any ivory from eastern and western Africa is automatically illegal, and any shop or carving factory in possession of such ivory should be closed and all assets seized.

Let’s not pussy-foot around anymore. Test the ivory, show China that it is dealing in illegal products, and shut down the trade.

Same with Thailand by the way.

WildAid has an oft-repeated motto – “When the buying stops, the killing can too”. I would like to coin a new one “When the testing starts, the sellers will be exposed”.

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Posted by Chris Macsween at 16:21

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