By Evgeny Lebedev
The bloodied carcasses of elephants now being discovered in shocking numbers across Africa are not the only reason the present poaching crisis is a tragedy that must urgently be addressed.
It is also because of the conservation rangers and wildlife policemen, often hopelessly ill-equipped and out-gunned, being killed in an increasingly militarised conflict that the poachers at this point are winning.
It is the villagers being forced from their homes or threatened with retribution if they do not help those intent on feeding Asia’s seemingly insatiable appetite for ivory.
It is the criminal networks that are using the vast sums that can be made - a gram of ivory in many parts of Asia now being worth more than a gram of gold - to further spread corruption and undermine the rule of law in sovereign states and treat international treaties with contempt.
One hears of government officials, port authorities, even crews on national airlines, all bent by the power of hard currency to turn a blind eye or assist in the destruction of one of the world’s most iconic wild animals and to help fuel the growth of ruthless criminal gangs.
For these elephant hunters are not just local people undertaking their traditional hunting practices or desperate farmers frustrated by elephants trampling their crops, although both do still exist.
Rather they include organisations that rank among the most loathsome in the world: al-Shabaab, the Somalia extremists who carried out the slaughter in Nairobi’s Westgate mall, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, which routinely kidnaps and drugs children to turn them into child soldiers, and Janjaweed, the roving gunmen who carried out the genocide in Darfur.
That is why we at the Independent have chosen to focus on this issue for our 2013 Christmas Campaign. Together we can not only do something to try to stop the slaughter of the animals bearing the brunt of this avarice but also, both through the money raised and by campaigning on the key issues involved, help those whose lives are being blighted by this unfolding crisis.
There is no question the present number of elephant deaths is horrific. The booming of the Asian economies saw the emergence of an extensive middle class that in many cases continued to see ivory as an aspirational product, and now had the disposable money to buy it. The law of supply and demand then meant the price rocketed and the number of killings soar.
The tragedy is that many in Asia do not appreciate the consequence of their purchases as it is not universally known elephants are killed for their ivory. More....