By Carl Safina (Op-Ed)
The call comes in camp at Sunday breakfast. David Daballen answers it, walking from the table as he talks. David works for Save the Elephants here in Kenya. Moments later he returns, announcing, “Another elephant just discovered killed, right across the river in Buffalo Springs, right inside the reserve, right off the road.”
That’s shocking. No elephant has till now been killed so deep inside the reserve, so near tourist lodges. “It’s never been worse,” David says. “We’re going in the wrong direction.”
Surging demand for ivory in China has been well publicized. But the publicity has overlooked the cause: The same international body that enacted a 1990 global ivory ban allowed China in 2008 to import ivory. This catastrophic reversal can be counted in carcasses — elephant and human.
Kenyan rangers recently killed two poachers nearby. Three days later, poachers shot three more elephants. Jobs here are few. Many poachers are young men with nothing to lose except their lives.
Ivory is about poverty, ethnic rivalry, terrorism and civil war. Elephant blood lubricates the flow of human blood. Blood ivory has been helping to finance Al Qaeda’s Al Shabab wing; Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army and Sudan’s murderous Janjaweed. That a craving for carvings fuels this is symptomatic of distant and detached international markets, regulators, consumers and governments caring nothing for whom they hurt. Ivory is not just about elephants. In some ways, I wish it were. More....