By Henri Bianucci
It’s like a scary movie: Just when you think the creature is finally dead, he rears his ugly head again. This monster is the poaching of African elephants for their tusks, and the details are both horrific and heartbreaking.
Until fairly recently, it seemed as though this problem had been stabilized. An international ban on the ivory trade in 1989, and an effective awareness campaign, highlighted by Kenya’s burning of confiscated ivory stocks, helped stem the slaughter and diminish demand for ivory.
This came at the end of a bloody decade that saw an elephant poached every 10 minutes; over 50,000 per year, claiming more than two thirds of Africa’s wild elephants.
Less than a decade later, the progress was reversed by a seriously misinformed decision. The Convention on the Illegal Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) caved to pressure from Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia and allowed these governments a one time, “experimental,” sale of 50 tons of stockpiled ivory to a single customer, Japan.
The justification was that saturating the market with that much ivory would so increase the supply that the prices would decline as demand was met. Thus, taking the incentive out of poaching. The experiment failed miserably.
Elephant range states, including Kenya, worried that China was emerging as a major market for poached ivory. The findings of a 2002 Environmental Investigation Agency report supported those concerns.
That year, China itself warned that the Japan experiment had confused consumers into believing that trade in ivory had resumed, and it was now OK to purchase it. More....