By John Frederick Walker
Qing Dynasty craftsmen labored obsessively over “devil’s-work balls,” arresting carvings of concentric spheres nested inside one another, all coaxed out of a single piece of elephant tusk with infinite patience and incessant, tiny strokes of their scraping tools.
These ivory wonders mystified visiting Western traders, who couldn’t figure out how they were put together.
The current Chinese ivory market is equally intricate but far more troubling.
State-owned enterprises compete with private ones, carving and selling legitimate ivory objects in a booming marketplace that’s also awash with illicit African ivory.
Unlike Japan, which also has a legal market, China’s is attached at the hip to an evil twin—a huge illegal market thought to account for the majority of tusks chopped out of slain elephants and smuggled out of Africa.
Elephant poaching, underwritten by seemingly insatiable global demand for ivory, is directly responsible for an unsustainable 25,000 elephant deaths a year.
This crisis forces African governments and international wildlife groups to put resources that would normally go into elephant conservation toward anti-poaching units that are invariably outgunned.
The struggle to prevent a death spiral for an iconic species has turned into an arms race.
Can these illegal killings be stopped?
Well, maybe. More....