Efforts in the field to curb poaching and protect elephants, as a species, needs the connected efforts of all relevant participants in this war for elephants. Anti-poaching, in many parts of Africa and carried out by respective projects and NGOs, is very effective, however there needs to be equal impact on all angles of the poaching-ivory trade crisis. China’s commitment to actively combat the ivory trade was powerfully expressed during the destruction of their ivory stockpiles recently. The demand for ivory itself is created by tradition and its representation of social status. The majority of the ivory market revolves around carved ivory. Intricate designs indented upon an elephant’s tusks are the end product which the average buyer is looking for.
In the enlightening documentary Battle For The Elephants, it was revealed that the ivory carving factories within China are in fact expanding rather than dying and with the current perilous catastrophe in which elephants have been hurled by the human hand, that would be the appropriate course for the ivory carving business: to die.
Why are they expanding? Why is such a blood-soaked and commercial line of work, that is existing in absolute detriment to the African Elephant, still such a large source of employment within China?
“The most shocking thing, I would say,” says Bryan Christy “is that the Chinese government is building capacity for huger ivory consumption. They have built the world’s largest ivory-carving factory, anticipating growth. They are sponsoring students in school to study ivory carving.
“The kind of scenario that pulls on your heartstrings, at the same time being pulled by the wildlife, is these dying crafts in these countries that have this long history of carving. In this case, the reality is it’s not conserving these individuals; its building a new business.”
Considering the statistics and enormity of the whole siege, it is natural to despair. It is natural to feel hopeless. Something those of us on the frontline have had to learn everyday is that when saving elephants seems an impossible feat, giving up is not an option. Not only because we are faced with the loss of all elephants if that were to happen but also because we have committed ourselves to this task, we have committed ourselves to the core of our morality and sense of “humanity”… to give up now would not only eliminate all elephants from the earth, it would rob us of our souls and our ability to care.
It is imperative that the world comprehends what is at stake here and China must stop glorifying ivory if elephants are to emerge the victor in the race for their own survival.