By Anna Pukas
It is gruesome in the extreme but demand is high and potential profits higher. Indeed it is the world's fifth most lucrative criminal activity after trafficking drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting.
The fact that trafficking wildlife - or more accurately wildlife parts - is illegal is no deterrent. When a business is worth between £4-6billion globally people will take the risk.
The international sale of ivory has been banned since 1989 yet elephants are being slaughtered for their tusks as never before. Around 32,000 were killed in Africa last year, which equates to 96 a day.
The ban may have quashed the ivory trade but it also sent ivory prices rocketing. Poaching is again as prevalent as it was when the ban came into force and in 2011 it even superseded pre-ban levels. The situation is so dire wildlife experts now believe more elephants are dying than are being born and that the African elephant could be extinct by 2025.
Kenya's elephant population has plummeted from 167,000 to only 35,000 in 30 years - just one generation. The Minkebe National Park in Gabon has lost two thirds of its elephants (around 11,000) to poaching since 2004. The number of African forest elephants (different from their savannah-roaming cousins) has fallen by 72 per cent since 2002 and only 80,000 remain in the wild.
All so that the emerging newly cash-rich middle classes in China can drape themselves in carved ivory trinkets or eat with ivory chopsticks or adorn their homes with - what obscene irony - ivory elephant ornaments.
The amount of illegal ivory seized worldwide went up by 50 per cent in 2012 and experts say half of it found its way to China, where legitimate trade in ivory is limited to five tons a year which does not come close to meeting the demand. More....