The African elephant population stood at approximately 1.3 million in 37 range states in 1979. By 1989 the population tiltered on 600,000, such a tremendous drop in numbers made the situation glaringly clear. At this time it was estimated that as many as 75,000 elephants were being slaughtered every year to feed the ivory demand in Japan. At the time, the loss of human life involved in the defense of wildlife was poorly taken into consideration. The extent of the damage caused to areas ravaged by poaching was also poorly comprehended. Finally when CITES met in October 1989, after a heated debate, the African elephant was put on Appendix One of CITES and three months later in January 1990 when the decision was enacted, the international trade in ivory was banned. It is widely accepted that the ivory ban worked. The poaching epidemic that had hit so much of the African elephant’s range was greatly reduced. Ivory prices plummeted and ivory markets around the world closed. (Source: Wikipedia).
Now we are in the year 2014, six years into the second globally witnessed elephant poaching crisis to sweep across the African continent, and many (including us) believe it to be the most severe with its escalating pattern. There have been CITES meetings deliberating over solutions to save the elephants however the African elephant (Loxodonta Africana) remains on Appendix II, despite frightening figures of as many 25,000 and 35,000 elephants being butchered for their ivory annually. Which must beg the question: What is wrong with CITES? The poaching pandemic of the 80s lasted approximately a decade…can the elephants who remain today sustain another colossal blow to their existence just twenty years later?
It is of course very important to note that today’s ivory trade is global. The largest consumer of ivory currently being China. The mortality figures of elephants are only those which are found. What about the butchered elephants who go undiscovered?
As one of the first projects to raise the alarm over the elephant poaching back in 2009, we have seen an enormous amount of horror. We have also seen an incredible, almost landslide increase, in global awareness on the issue. When the first signs of the poaching started, very few people knew of the elephant’s plight. It was not in the world’s face, so to speak. And now…SIX years later the poaching continues. Even though the awareness has shot up all over the planet, sadly so have the elephant losses. Elephant Aware has (we hope) played quite a significant role in spreading this awareness and has helped this terrible pandemic reach an international level of acknowledgement. The poaching has not stopped, an extremely worrying factor. But now that (almost) the entire world, know of what is happening to our elephants, now that some of the horrific on-goings within our world are exposed, we are forced to look and to care. Some can look the other way but they cannot erase what the eyes and ears have witnessed.
The human race has had a lot of condemnation in recent years in lieu of nature and our deplorable treatment of it. And for good reason. Though we are sickened and disgusted to the core with the acts of some of our kind…we must remind ourselves on a daily basis that we are not all bad. What we are faced with is a formidable evil that takes great courage and perseverance to stand up to. Conservation takes a lot of effort…but a little help goes a long way. We need every voice out there to express their abhorrence of the annihilation of elephants. Many have but we are talking global voices in their entirety. There is no time for “softness” towards those who are clearly the enemy of everything the good of our kind stand for. And it is the good that remains in all of us that we must pull together, in unity we can defeat the evil that now runs amok, as we have in the past. As integral beings of this planet, animals too must be conserved and cherished. As the dominant species, with such power comes responsibility. It is easy to forget this during the mundane trials and problems of our everyday lives.
It is long past time that monumental steps are taken to secure elephants. Move the African elephant and its various subspecies back onto Appendix I. Ban the ivory trade and close down its markets. Shut down the major ivory carving factories as well as their smaller counterparts. Implement severe penalties to be carried out by the law for punishment of wildlife/environmental wrong-doers. Implement measures that totally prevent loopholes currently accessible to those who commit said crimes. Bar (and preferably prosecute then lock up – in that order) corrupt associations both inside and outside of various conservation circles from participating in any capacity on decision making or management of laws, regulations or conservation of wildlife. Boost and maintain wildlife security efforts that are already in the field with substantial funding (and on-the-ground follow up of such funding by donors if possible).
It is above all, time for action and not words. Elephants don’t care about CITES or laws or bans…elephants care about their children, they care about their families and they care about LIVING.
(N.B. We don’t expect our pleas to be heard but we sure hope they are and we keep relentlessly pushing. We realize words can only do so much, however awareness is of vital importance within our project – hence Elephant AWARE and the only portal with which our voice can be heard is through the internet).