By Joe Gandelman
Is it time to say goodbye to the majestic elephant? The species has been hurt by habitat destruction and species fragmentation, but its biggest enemy has undoubtedly been mankind: An elephant is killed every 15 minutes. And now, one expert predicts that within 12 years, elephants will be extinct, the victims largely of poachers who sell their ivory, and the mostly wealthy customers and celebrities who buy it.
On World Elephant Day earlier this month, Kenya's Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust warned that "in 12 years' time there may not be any elephants left in Africa to celebrate. A world without elephants is hard to comprehend, but it is a real possibility. Against a submachine gun or poacher armed with a spear, they stand little chance." Indeed, 36,000 elephants were killed in Kenya last year, and 163 of Kenya's 35,000 elephants were killed by poachers just this June and July.
In 1989, the ivory trade was banned under the international Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and elephant killing subsequently decreased. But organized bands have often skirted the ban, and Philip Mansbridge, CEO of Care for the Wild International, writing in The Huffington Post, contends that the situation is getting worse.
"Elephant poaching across Africa has reached an unprecedented high and now looks set to wipe out our beloved elephants from the planet in as little as 20 years. Some reports are now suggesting that up to 40,000 elephants are being killed for their tusks each year in Africa alone... In minutes his tusks will be removed, usually by cutting most of the face off, often by chainsaw. An intelligent, social elephant with complex communication and family structures, that may have walked around its land in peace for the last 60-70 years, now dead and soon to be a trinket. This is not only unsustainable and cruel — it is barbaric." [The Huffington Post\
Mansbridge and others largely blame China. The International Fund for Animal Welfare says China "has historically been a significant destination for illicit trade in ivory and was identified as the single most important influence on the increasing ivory trade" for many years. More....