Good News for Elephants!

ele542106059-1024x683CNN reported yesterday that Hong Kong, the world’s largest retail market for ivory, will phase out ivory sales over the next eighteen months and impose severe penalties on those engaging in smuggling and trading of endangered species.

Certainly this is good news! Chinese demand for ivory has long been the primary stimulus to the slaughtering of African elephants, presently an estimated 30,000 annually.

It’s so bad that poaching even outstrips the numbers of elephants being born, which if it continues over the next several decades, will result in these intelligent and emotional creatures vanishing forever.

As just one example, in 1970 Kenya counted 70,000 elephants. That number has dwindled to 38,000.

In 2013, 20,000 elephants were killed across Africa, either through poaching or trophy enthusiasts.

Exacerbating the crisis threatening not only elephants but other exotic wildlife that includes lions and rhinos has been the rise of warlords and terrorists such as the Lord’s Resistance Army and Boku Haram who wantonly prey upon wildlife to finance still more weapon purchases with which to terrorize their fellow Africans.

In all of of this, America is not without blame. The truth is that we are up to our neck in the ivory trade, or second to China in ivory imports, abetted by U.S. law that allows ivory into the country for non-commercial use.

Big game hunters like the dentist who killed Cecil, the Zimbabwe lion, receive fervent support from the powerful NRA, which constitutes one of Washington’s most powerful lobbies. The NRA also backs the large trade in guns with ivory-inlaid stocks.

If the United States along with China, including Hong Kong, were to shut their doors to ivory imports, then our elephant friends would indeed face much better odds.

To bring this about, you and I must never give-up the struggle, converting words into deeds such as liaising with members of Congress, writing op-eds, encouraging corporate giving, and not least, opening up our wallets as well as our hearts to donating what we can to support those frontline organizations (e.g., African Wildlife Foundation and World Wildlife Federation) attempting to bring this cruel carnage to its rightful end.


China Destroys Ivory Stocks: Too Little too Late?


I’m pleased again at another good omen for the environment in learning of China’s destruction yesterday of six tons of seized ivory ornaments and tusks.  This is exciting, since China has been overwhelmingly the prime market for ivory, where it’s turned into trinkets and statuary, and it’s the first time China has done this.  Hopefully, it won’t be the last.  This comes on the heels of Tanzania’s recent destruction of four tons of ivory, adding up to about forty slaughtered elephants.  In addition to Tanzania, Kenya and Gabon have recently destroyed large caches of ivory.

Still, China has a long ways to go.  As reported in the NYT on Monday, The Wildlife Conservation Society says that there may be as much as forty-five tons in the total ivory inventory in China, not including Hong Kong.  Let’s face it:  ivory can be lucrative, fetching $1000 a pound.  In poverty stricken Africa, poachers in the field rarely command such profit, pocketed by sophisticated  black market smugglers, but minimally still incentive enough.  Elephant poaching is further exacerbated as the continent’s many warring factions use ivory sales to purchase arms.

What shocks me is our own large stash of ivory, with six tons of ivory destroyed last November.  I guess I shouldn’t be so naive.  We have a large Chinese immigrant community, especially on the West Coast, where demand for ivory, rhino horn, tortoise and shark fin can ratchet up lucrative profits.  In fact, we’re downright hypocrites.  The good old USA ranks second to China in consumption of illegal animal products, including not only those I just mentioned, but even tiger bone!  Nothing is sacred; nothing off limits for crime syndicates operating internationally.

Unabated, the trade will peter out in about ten years.  We’ll simply have run out of elephants, rhinoceroses, sharks and tigers.

But just maybe the window’s opened a bit with China’s move, offering a new vista of hope.  As China’s legacy of ancient wisdom has it, “The longest journey begins with the first step” (Lao Tzu).


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