Elephants and the Ivory TradePublished January 3, 2011
Elephants, some of the most majestic and powerful creatures sharing our planet, have captured the hearts of millions of animal lovers. As children many of us were raised by parents reading us bedtime stories with jungle tales, such as the Just So Stories, Babar the Elephant and Dumbo. We marveled over the splendor of elephants and were innocently astounded by ivory carvings and jewelry, since most of us gave little thought to how it was obtained, or the potential dangers to which these "gentle" giants faced. However, the forward-thinking United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) gave elephants the highest level of protection in 1989, since the elephant population in Africa had dwindled from approximately 1.2. Million to 600,000 in a ten-year period in the 1980s. While this protection effectively banned the International ivory trade, over 12 years, several actions partially lifted this ban in 1997, with its initial intention denigrated. One of the biggest threats to elephant populations, particularly in Central and West Africa is poaching elephants for ivory. Since ivory continues to have tremendous financial value, in some parts of Africa and Asia, poaching elephants for their tusks has increased due to the partial lifting of the ban. This is putting elephants in grave danger of possible extinction. Due to rising human populations living in Africa, India and China in the elephant range states, the animals are forced to survive in shrinking territories with food and water resources becoming a source of conflict. The International Fund for Animal Welfare, (IFAW) is dedicated to help resolve these conflicts by finding humane solutions which meet the needs of both elephants and humans. The IFAW is also working with local communities and governments in these countries to create protected trans-boundary areas which give the elephants sufficient space to live. But what I found most shocking about the ivory trade while reading information on the IFAW website is the United States is one of the largest retail markets and consumers of imported ivory. With the Illegal souvenirs brought into the country, and items sold over the Internet along with smuggling operations, this country has become one of the driving forces in elephant poaching in Africa. While the Ivory trade is booming in America, the Asian and African elephants living in the wild are seriously threatened by loopholes that presently exist in the Endangered Species Act. But there is something we can do! The IFAW wants folks concerned about elephants to make President Obama aware of this travesty. Visit the Petition Site to let your voice be heard. What are your concerns for elephants living in the wild? Leave a comment and share your thoughts about this story.