Elephants have survived in the wild for 15 million years, but today this iconic species is threatened with extinction due to ongoing poaching for ivory. As long as there is demand for ivory, elephants will continue to be killed for their tusks. According to best estimates, as many as 26,000 elephants are killed every year simply to extract their tusks.
A Brief History of the Ivory Trade
Demand for ivory first skyrocketed in the 1970s and 1980s. The trade in ivory was legal then—although for the most part it was taken illegally. During those decades, approximately 100,000 elephants per year were being killed. The toll on African elephant populations was shocking: over the course of a single decade, their numbers dropped by half.
In October of 1989 the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to move African elephants from Appendix II to Appendix I, affording the now highly endangered animal the maximum level of protection, effectively ending trade in all elephant parts, including ivory.
With the new Appendix 1 listing, the poaching of elephants literally stopped overnight. The ban brought massive awareness of the plight of elephants, the bottom dropped out of the market, and prices plummeted. Ivory was practically unsellable.
For 10 years, the global ban stood strong and it seemed the crisis had ended. Elephant numbers began to recover. Unfortunately, the resurgence in elephant populations, while nowhere near the numbers prior to the spike in trade, was nevertheless a catalyst for some African countries to consider reopening the trade. They successfully lobbied CITES to consider a one-off trade of natural stockpiles (accumulated through natural mortalities and game management). In 1999, CITES sanctioned a “one-time experimental sale” (50 tonnes to Japan from Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe) and in 2008, CITES granted a second sale (102 tonnes to Japan and China, the latter a new buyer in the ivory market at the time).
The 2008 sale to newly wealthy China created a devastating poaching crisis. Perhaps unintentionally, the legal trade drove an illegal trade and the resumption of massive poaching. Investigators from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found that as much as 90% of ivory for sale in China came from the black market. It is nearly impossible to discern the difference.
A report by the African Wildlife Foundation and WildAid on the trade of ivory in Hong Kong came to the same conclusion: ivory traders were using the legal trade as cover for illegal smuggling.
In hindsight it appears that the provision of legal or “good” ivory to the Chinese markets was responsible for the most extreme and devastating war on elephants.
Canada was one of only four countries at the most recent conference of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to object to closing its domestic ivory trade. Japan, Namibia, and South Africa also objected. Canada has justified its objection by expressing concern for the Inuit trade in legal narwhal and walrus ivory.
Canada has never banned elephant trophy imports. CITES tracks imports and exports of animals and animal parts. Their records show that between 2007 and 2016, Canada allowed the legal importation of 83 elephants trophies, as well as 434 elephant skulls, and 260 elephant feet.
In Canada, African elephant ivory is being sold:
• in antique shops
• in Chinatown
• through auction houses
• on the Internet – Facebook, Kijiji, Craigslist
Online auctions of ivory items as well as ivory sales through Kijiji, Craiglist, and Yahoo continue to provide an opportunity to launder illegal ivory.
As a signatory to CITES, Canada abides by its rules through the implementation of a law known as the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, which came into force in 1996. Essentially, the law details a list of species that are regulated, including those species where trade is prohibited.
Generally, it is illegal to trade Appendix I species such as elephants. There are exceptions. If a product is derived from captive animals or the product pre-dates when the CITES Convention came into effect (1975) or that animal was not classified at the time the animal was taken from the wild, then trade may be considered legal contingent upon the correct documentation and proof of age of the specimen. Both of these latter proofs enable a fair amount of grey area that may be exploited by those seeking to launder illegal ivory as legal.
Death Toll in Rangers
There are 355 national parks in Africa, which together employ approximately 22,000 rangers and volunteers. In 2015 alone, 27 rangers were killed, according to the International Game Rangers Federation, which has monitored ranger mortality since the year 2000. In March of 2016, two rangers were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park, pushing the death toll of rangers killed in this park to more than 150 in the last 10 years. In 2018, at least 63 African game rangers died in the line of duty.
World Elephant Day
In 2012, World Elephant Day was created as a rallying point for elephant conservation organizations and individuals worldwide to raise awareness about the plight of elephants and the dominant, often cruel, threats to their survival.
Ivory Burns and Crushes since 2012
Thailand, August 26, 2015: 2,100 kg of ivory destroyed
Sri Lanka, January 26, 2016: 1,500 kg of ivory destroyed
Malawi, March 14, 2016: 2,600 kg of ivory destroyed
Italy, March 31, 2016: 400 kg of ivory destroyed
Malaysia, April 14, 2016: 9,550 kg of ivory destroyed
Cameroon, April 19, 2016: 2,000 kg of ivory destroyed
Kenya, April 30, 2016: 105,000 kg of ivory destroyed
The elephant is an iconic being on our planet. It is not hard to see why. Elephants are glorious, grand, and majestic. They are the largest animals to walk the surface of our planet. The largest elephant on record weighed 24 000 lbs! Despite their large size, they eat only a plant-based diet. Elephants are highly intelligent, self-aware, and sentient beings. They have incredible memories. They love to play. And to communicate, elephants purr like cats! There are two types of elephants: African and Asian. The African elephants have fantastic tusks. They use their tusks to defend themselves, dig for water, and lift objects. And did you know elephant dung is critical to a healthy ecosystem? The dung contains seeds from the fruits that elephants consume. As the elephants roam, the seeds disperse through their dung which helps to create and maintain a rich and biodiverse habitat.
Like us, elephants are family-oriented and show compassion by “hugging” and caressing each other. And like us, elephants cry and grieve. When passing a place where a loved one has died, an elephant will stop and remain silently still up to several minutes. The elephant will gently touch the bones of the deceased with its trunk and feet…
Elephants are endangered. The destruction of their habitat largely for cattle farms is a big threat. And they also face another very large and very direct threat. The African elephant is sought after for its magnificent tusks. The illegal sale of ivory is a huge and bloody business. Even terrorists are linked to selling ivory to fund their attacks. A pair of tusks from a single male elephant can weigh over 250 pounds. Each pound can be sold for up to $1500 on the black market. The sellers of the illegal market know that the less elephants we have on our planet, the higher they can drive up the price. China and the United States are the world’s largest markets for ivory products. Ivory is considered a luxury cultural item in China. The main ivory products produced to meet demand are… trinkets. Elephants are brutallly killed for these trinkets. Oftentimes, the elephants are still alive while the tusks are being hacked out of their heads. What is left is a gruesome headless elephant… China has finally stepped up this year to make the sale of all ivory illegal by the end of 2017. It is a step in the right direction, but we still have mountains to move in order to quash demand before it's too late for the elephants to survive as a species.
Asian elephants have been faced with a different issue. They are often domesticated for the tourist trade. They are also trained to work. But most recently, a new and shocking illegal black market has emerged. Asian elephants are being killed for their skins. Rangers have come across many bloody carcasses stripped of their skins. The poachers are ruthless – they are even skinning babies. In five months, more Asian elephants have been killed than in the last entire year. Why are elephants now being killed for their skin? There are claims that elephant skin can help to cure simple human skin conditions like eczema and acne. First, there is no proof that this is true. Second, it is beyond an outrage that endangered elephants would be killed for trivial skin problems.
Please help us raise the urgent alarm! Thank you for your support, and the elephants thank you too.
(Sources: http://www.happyelephantcontest.com/fun-facts/; http://theweek.com/articles/449437/tragic-price-ivory; https://www.thedodo.com/community/Elegirl/the-truth-about-tusks-648225506.html; http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/asian-elephants-skin-myanmar_us_593a5da3e4b0240268780d68 )
Rhinos look impressively prehistoric. That makes complete sense since this amazing species has been around for over 50 million years! The name rhinoceros comes from the Greek words rhino, which means nose, and ceros, which means horn. There are five species of rhinos. Two live in Africa (white and black rhinos – they are both actually grey) and three live in South-Asia (Javan, Sumatran, and Greater one-horned rhinos). Rhinos are big. The white rhino is the largest mammal on land after the elephant. It can weigh over 7700 lbs! As large as they are, they are herbivores. Rhinos are often pictured with a blue bird, the oxpecker. This amazing bird helps the rhino by eating bugs on its skin. And the oxpecker will call out to the rhino when danger is approaching. Fascinating! Sanctuary caretakers describe rhinos as having individual personalities and even being quite cuddly!
The black, Javan, and Sumatran rhinos are all listed as critically endangered (50% chance of becoming extinct in three generations). The Javan rhino is the world’s rarest land mammal. There are about a mere 60 left... The rhino is being hunted for its splendid horn. It suffers an agonizing death – it is shot, its horn is sliced off, and then it is left to bleed to death… Increasing markets in China and Vietnam are driving the demand. The horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat things such as fever, headaches, and terminal illnesses. It is also used for trivial things such as hangovers and aphrodisiacs. And owning a horn is seen as a status symbol for the wealthy. Rhino horns, however, are made of keratin – the same substance that make up our fingernails and hair. So it is no more a medicinal remedy than our own nails and hair. It has never been proven that the horn has any medicinal properties at all. It is time to turn the tide on these dangerously lethal and misinformed cultural traditions that are bringing this magnificent being to the unacceptable brink of extinction.
Please help us raise the urgent alarm! Thank you for your support, and the rhinos thank you too.
(Sources: www.savetherhino.org; www.livescience.com; www.wildaid.org; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3396862/One-man-rhino-Touching-moment-orphaned-beast-man-saved-lean-selfie.html; https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/javan-rhino )