It is hard to believe, but it is estimated that as many as 25,000 African elephants are being killed every year for their beautiful ivory tusks. For many years, the ivory trade has actually been illegal, but that has sadly made the elephants’ tusks even more valuable on the blackmarket.
What is ivory?
Those long, beautiful tusks you see on both male and female African elephants is made up of a material known as Ivory. In ancient times ivory carvings, false teeth, dominoes, piano keys and billiard balls were made from this ivory. While other animals including hippos and Asian elephants also have ivory teeth and tusks, it is the African elephant who has provided the world with most of its ivory.
Why is harvesting ivory bad?
You might think that taking the ivory from an elephant might be as simple as sheering a sheep for wool. Sadly, this is not the case. Poachers (illegal hunters) kill the majestic elephants to hack out as much of their tusks as possible. This has caused the near extinction of the planet’s largest land animal.
In19889 the world’s leaders adopted a global ban on ivory trade in the hopes of saving the remaining elephants. For a few years, this ban worked and the African elephant population began to increase. However, in recent years, illegal poaching has risen to its highest in more than 30 years.
What is being done to protect elephants?
Eager to protect their remaining elephants from roving gangs of poachers who are killing whole herds at a time, the Kenyan government has started taking drastic and controversial action. Elephant activists and government representatives are hunting down the elephants themselves but instead of killing them, they are being tranquilized so that their ivory can be humanely removed.
In once such an example, an enormous 6 ton bull elephant known as the Mountain Bull whose tusks weighed more than 20 pounds each, evaded poachers for years. He carries more than high caliber bullets in his hide to prove it. Recently rangers and conservationists joined together to track Mountain Bull down and remove parts of his tusks.
Unfortunately, at the same time that this one elephant was saved, just a few hundred miles away, an entire family of African elephants was gunned down by poachers. As long as there is a demand for ivory, elephants will be killed so that this demand can be met.
What you can do to help stop the ivory trade
There are three big ways that you can help put a stop to the ivory trade:
- Don’t buy ivory. It’s that simple; if everyone stopped buying ivory, there would be no market for it and the poachers would be out of a job.
- Spread the word! Shout it from the rooftops, where a cool shirt, post in on your Facebook wall “Only Elephants Should Wear Ivory!”
- Support conservation efforts. There are non-profit groups that work hard to put a stop to the slaughter of elephants for their tusks but they can’t do it without people like you. Pledge to give even a few dollars a month to one of these groups, or better yet, hold a fundraiser in your community. Not only will this help raise even more money but will raise awareness as well!