Because of the huge demand for ivory-carved religious artifacts in Asia, the African elephant is being decimated by highly paid well-armed poachers and smugglers.
According to reliable sources like the National Geographic magazine ( Ivory Worship , National Geographic, October 2012, p-32), these underground operations have been going on for several years. During the 1980's, for example, about half of this nations elephants were killed by hunters and poachers. To slow down this killing, several countries agreed to ban imported ivory in 1989.
However, this ban caused the value of ivory to skyrocket. Today, one 11-lb tusk can be worth $ 7500 or more on the black market. Thus, the poaching-smuggling trade flourishes. Also, some of the African countries who had previously banned elephant killing are now dropping their bans to thin out their so-called over-populated herds. In 2011, more than 25,000 African elephants were murdered.
Poaching methods used .
The poachers are well-armed and organized. This year alone, they have killed several African park rangers who tried to protect these herds. Otherwise, they murder entire herds with AK-47 rifles and propelled grenades. Lately, they have shot down herds from helicopters. To speed-up the tusk removal itself, they saw out the entire snout areas of the dying elephants with chain-saws. In other instances, poor groups of natives set out poisoned pumpkins and watermelons to kill the elephants for the poachers.
Underground systems deeply entrenched .
1. The religious sectors in question see the ivory (and nothing but ivory) as giving the proper adoration to their gods. Any substitute material is unacceptable.
2. To Transport this large amount of contraband ivory across Africa, and then, to smuggle it by boat or plane into Asia requires massive illegal organization. In one article, one interviewee claimed the only time this contraband is officially seized is when a payment is missed.
3. Currently, the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda and Sudan sees this illegal trade as a revenue source. This rouge army is the same one that raids native villages, captures its children, and then forces them to kill their own parents before trafficking them abusively.
Can anything be done about it ?
One source predicts the African elephant will be gone by 2020 at the present rate of poaching. That's only seven years away from now. Making a difference in this savage travesty will require more police action than is currently available. The bribes and payoffs go well beyond poorly trained inspectors and customs agents. They creep into the upper reaches of several governments.
One thought is to stop these mass killings in Africa. However, the enormity of this cause will require much more than poorly equipped park rangers. Cooperating multinational military action will be needed. Such action could mean having
- United Nations oversight
- spies and armed military personnel
- heavily armored vehicles and helicopters to offset the poacher's armament
- extensive radio, camera and video communications
- continuous flyovers of suspect regions
- satellite surveillance
- improved port detection and inspection.
Conclusion. Although the African elephant also faces natural habitat losses, poaching remains the biggest cause of their rapid disappearance. When this immoral illegal trade is stopped, it will have to make-do with the ivory it already has on hand in its own way. For more detailed information on this subject, see the following reference.