Over the past 34 years the African elephant population has declined to heartbreakingly low figures, primarily due to the ivory trade. There are said to be around 470,000 African elephants left in the wild, a painfully sharp contrast to the 1,300,000 which roamed the wilderness in 1979. In 1989, a worldwide ban on ivory trade was approved by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Levels of poaching fell dramatically, and black market prices of ivory slumped, it seemed CITES had saved the African elephant. However, in 1997 CITES down-listed the elephant species into a ‘less endangered’ status due to the decrease in ivory demand. Just a year later a Taiwanese port seized tusks and ivory totalling a weight of 1.45 tonnes. By 2002, it was agreed that Botswana, Namibia and South Africa could export 60 tonnes of ivory. 6 years later and CITES granted a second ‘one-off’ sale of ivory, with Japan and China as the approved buyers.
Many predicted these sales might fuel an increasing appetite for ivory among the growing Chinese middle class, where ivory is perceived as a symbol of wealth, power and status. Poaching rates soared following the 2008 sale and are now the highest they’ve been since prior to the 1989 ban. It is official; the levels of poaching and illegal trade had rocketed once again and are spiralling out of control. Today it is estimated that 67 elephants are being poached for their ivory every day in Tanzania alone, with an Africa wide estimate of 36-38,000 elephants killed annually for their tusks.
On 5th January 2013, 12 elephants were shot down, slaughtered for their ivory, the worst single incident of poaching in Kenya since records began. This happened in Tsavo East National Park and very sadly is not an isolated case; elephants are being killed throughout the region daily due to the seemingly insatiable demand for their ivory. This distressing incident has been a wakeup call for the uneducated citizens who were previously unaware as to the reality of the ivory trade. Equally distressing is the future for elephants, if killings continue at this rate, there will be no African elephants in the wild by 2025.
The link between the ivory trade and the illegal killing of elephants is clear to see and unless action is taken based on informative evidence, African elephants will be gone within our lifetimes. Therefore The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust created its iWorry campaign to raise awareness and secure signatures ahead of the next meeting of CITES to be held in Bangkok, Thailand from 3 – 14 March 2013. This will see the gathering of 176 countries and ivory is high on the agenda.
We are aiming to reach at least 36,000 signatures to our petition, to show CITES that people are increasingly adamant about bringing an end to this devastating trade, which is rapidly killing off so many majestic mammals and their families. Securing the future of Africa’s elephant will mean not just beating the poachers but also tackling black-market sales on the other side of the world in China. Our aim is to persuade those in question to permanently ban the sale of ivory both internationally and within nations. We share our earth with elephants; we care, feel and love just as they do. As highly intelligent animals who have walked this earth longer than mankind we owe it to them to protect them and speak up for them, while there is still time.
‘All life has just one home – the earth – and we as the dominant species must take care of it.’
Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick DBE
Please visit www.iworry.org and add your name to those of the other 28,000+ people that have already stated they cannot imagine a world without elephants. Thank you