By Sangita Iyer
I am utterly numb and speechless, as I struggle to cope with the aftermath of the recent carnage of 89 elephants including around 30 pregnant females. The brutal massacre took place in Chad, near the Cameroon border around March 14-15, ironically in the closing hours of the 40th annual Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), where protecting the gentle giants was high on the agenda.
Just a few weeks back authorities had discovered 28 elephant carcasses, all stripped of their ivory tusks, in Cameroon's Nki and Lobeke National parks, and at least 15 carcasses across various locations in Central African Republic.
According to South Africa's 2012 environment ministry figures, 633 rhinos were slaughtered, marking a new annual peak in a country that is home to most of the continent's rhinos. This, even as the slaughter of elephants continued unabated, with 2012 being "another bumper year for the illegal ivory trade," as described by a conservation group TRAFFIC, which monitors global trade in animals and plants.
Fueled by the surging demand for horn and ivory in China -- where the growing middle class population in that country has "disposable income," elephants and rhinos are being poached in record numbers in South Africa.
Another species on the brink of extinction is the tiger. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF),
"Every part of the tiger--from whisker to tail--is traded in illegal wildlife markets. Poaching is the most immediate threat to wild tigers. In relentless demand, their parts are used for traditional medicine, folk remedies, and increasingly as a status symbol among wealthy Asians."
WWF is concerned that even countries with strong enforcement of tiger protection laws fight a never-ending battle against poaching fueled by illegal trading, which conservationists estimate is about $20 billion a year. According to Japan Times, "Wildlife trafficking is a murky, lucrative, violent trade; ongoing, increasingly organized and sophisticated, but one that still remains largely unnoticed. And it is out of control. Interpol rates it on a par with drugs and arms when it comes to scale and the overall market value of the "products" killed, bought, traded and smuggled." More....