By Jean Williams
On Wednesday, Philippe Cousteau Jr., a CNN International special correspondent, gave a report on the struggle to save African forest elephants in lawless areas of Central Africa.
Cousteau said there has virtually been no legal enforcement against poaching or enforcement of the 1989 international ban on ivory trade for years. Elephants are gunned down by organized cartel-style groups, who use helicopters and AK-47’s to destroy majestic animals for one purpose; to extract and sell their tusks, leaving the remaining carcass to rot.
Massive depletion of Central African dense forests through resource extraction, logging, mining, and general habitat destruction leaves elephants vulnerable and exposed to hunters.
The population of Africa’s forest elephants has been decimated over the past 50 years from once robust numbers of 200,000 down to an estimated 10,000 elephants, reported the Humane Society of the United States in a recent “All Animals” magazine article.
Cousteau estimates the population to be a bit higher at around 80,000, but said unequivocally they face extinction over the next decade if protective measures aren’t urgently put in place.
Greed and money is at the core.
Samuel Wasser, a wildlife forensic scientist from the University of Washington uses high-tech DNA methods to “fingerprint” ivory tusks. His work has allowed him to create a “genetic map” of Africa’s elephants. Wasser has discovered that “illegal ivory headed to China and other growing markets in Asia is coming from only about a dozen poaching hot spots in Africa.”
Wasser describes poaching as a low risk, high profit industry that has increased “twelvefold in recent years.” The ban in 1989 initially slowed tusk poaching, because there was unified support from Western countries and funding was available for law enforcement. But after the money dried up, it opened the door once again to unabated elephant massacres.
Unfortunately, consumer demand in the US and other Western nations is also driving the market. Ivory carvings, jewelry and trinkets have increased in popularity in many countries. Environmental organizations are trying to educate the public much like they did about animals being killed for their fur decades ago. More....