By Kristin Davis
Most people are unaware that an elephant is killed for its tusks every 15 minutes. That means 12 years until they are all gone, at the current rate. And it is often a brutal death for these creatures. Because the demand for ivory trinkets has grown so high — the ivory from a tusk can sell for $1,000 a pound — major crime syndicates and warlords across Africa, like Joseph Kony, have dedicated themselves to killing as many elephants as possible. Because these criminals make so much money selling ivory on the black market, it’s worth their while to risk the fairly light punishment that has historically been given for poaching. So there is nothing to stop them from killing elephants to fund other atrocities, like rape, murder, sex and drug trafficking.
Poachers are organized and deadly, killing many elephants inside of African National Parks where animals are supposed to be safe. When I tell people this, they’re shocked. ”But I thought poaching was illegal?” they say. And so did I.
I helped rescue an orphaned baby elephant in 2009 on a visit to Kenya, and was fortunate to be able to take her to the woman who first had success raising orphaned elephants and returning them to the wild. Dame Daphne Sheldrick told me that the baby elephant we found could have been the victim of poachers who had killed her family. I thought to myself that poaching was illegal and maybe the Sheldricks were likely worried for no reason.
Unfortunately, 2009 was the beginning of what is now described as a “tsunami” of poaching across Africa. Over 30,000 African elephants were killed illegally in 2012, the largest number in 20 years. Just last week, three ex-orphans who are now very large elephants living in Tsavo National Park were shot with arrows. These elephants returned to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust because they knew they would be cared for there. Luckily, the vets working for the Trust saved all three. One of these ex-orphans was Malika, which has a baby born in the wild that is still nursing. She had a cut on her stomach. It turned out that an arrow had pierced her skin and lodged inside her body, stopping when it struck a rib. If left untreated, she would have had a slow and gruesome death due to infection, and her wild-born baby would have died from lack of milk. More....