In 1989, a ban on the trade of ivory came to be but despite this bam ivory trade has continued to be a major issue globally. Despite many efforts by governments and conservation groups, poaching of elephants has drastically increased recently due to a rise in the price of ivory. A recent demonstration in Kenya looked to highlight the plight of elephants and the need to end ivory trade.
It is estimated that up to 35,000 elephants are killed each year in Africa just for their tusks. The elephants are killed by poachers with increasingly advanced technology and are now becoming a major issue even for elephants in protected areas. Once the poachers kill the elephants, they remove the tusks and leave the rest of the body behind. This is the end for approximately fifteen percent of the total population of elephants each year, a percentage that is increasing.
Kenya is home to the Samburu National Reserve, which many elephants have been able to seek shelter from poaching. But now the increasing poaching, which is being driven by the doubling of price in the last two years to $1500 per 2.2 pounds of ivory, is entering this elephant sanctuary as well. Recently a matriarch was murdered near the reserve and left eight orphans.
Due to these reasons Kenya recently held an event to highlight the issue of poaching. Kenya burned 335 tusks which had been confiscated by the country, totaling about five tons of ivory. Many conservation groups are pushing for stricter global laws on ivory and increased punishment in individual countries when the poachers are caught. Laws which are too lenient are seen as part of the problem, such as poachers frequently being released from jail within two days when caught in Kenya.
During the tusk burning, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya stated: “We wish to firmly demonstrate to the world our determination to eliminate all forms of illegal trade in ivory. Poachers and illegal trades in ivory must know their days are numbered.”
The future of elephants hangs in the balance and their populations have already been severely decimated by poaching. In a statement, Save the Elephants highlighted why poaching is such a serious issue: “The number of mature males has consistently declined and mortality has impacted over half the family units. Fourteen percent of the social groups do not contain a breeding female over the age of twenty-five years and are comprised of multiple orphan calves. With many of the large bulls poached, the elephant population is now so skewed that seventy percent of the population is female.”