The illegal ivory trade has decimated the elephant population. Every 15 minutes, an elephant is killed for its tusks. At that rate, elephants will be extinct in the wild in about 10 years.
10 years. In our lifetime. To make it even scarier: organized crime is at the heart of this destruction.
Here’s a small, horrific sample of the decimation in Africa:
-Cameroon: In February 2012, 650 elephants were killed by poachers in a national park. In March 2013, at least 40 endangered forest elephants were killed, including very young and newborns.
-Ivory Coast: There are less than 2,000 elephants left.
-Senegal has only between 5 and 10 elephants left.
-Sierra Leone lost its last wild elephant in 2009.
-Tanzania: 30 to 60 elephants are killed EVERY DAY. The population estimate in 2008 was approximately 165,000 — today there are fewer than 23,000 elephants left… every day this number is shrinking.
-Zimbabwe: In Hwange National Park in October 2013, more than 300 elephants were killed by cyanide poisoning put in their drinking water.
Stats courtesy of Action for Elephants UK
These staggering numbers don’t even account for the suffering of the elephants that survive. Elephants live in herds, and when a poacher attacks, the entire herd witnesses the brutality. As one of the more complex and social animals, elephants reel from this trauma and bear the emotional consequences for the rest of their lives. So, not only has the poacher physically slaughtered an elephant, he has also emotionally slaughtered any surviving members of the herd.
The biggest threat to elephants is humans, at every level. And, our worst offense? Our desire for ivory. China is the largest consumer of ivory. The US is second. Demand for ivory dates back to ancient civilization, where it was (and still is) valued for its social significance. Ivory is also prized for its durability, making it a top choice for carving as well as everyday items such as buttons, hairpins, chopsticks, spear tips, bow tips, needles, combs, buckles, handles, billiard balls, and piano keys. We use ivory for nothing more than gewgaws. And an elephant has to die for our greed.
The best course of action is to ban the ivory trade, and sentence poachers to hefty fines and/or prison/death (Sri Lanka law protects the elephant and killing one is punishable by death).
Why should you care?
Aside from the fact that we humans have NO right to push animals to extinction?
Ecological balance is probably the most important reason we should care. Elephants are linked to other species, and protecting them means we’re protecting a whole array of animals and plants. In a vulnerable ecosystem such as where the elephant lives, ecological balance impacts the world across.
In central African forests, up to 30 percent of tree species may require elephants to help with dispersal and germination. Forest elephants are essential for the germination of many rain forest trees. The seeds of these trees only germinate after passing through the elephant’s digestive tract, contributing to a healthy forest ecosystem.
Because elephants are one of the “Big 5” safari animals, they are a hugely popular tourist attraction, thus growing the economy and the tourism industry. This in turn creates job opportunities and better living conditions for local communities.
A hell of a lot. Most people don’t get involved because they are afraid of having to spend money or committing hours of volunteer time. I get it – I’m a working mom, and I get it. But, there are ways to help raise awareness and educate people about what’s happening without spending a dime, and that take less time than writing a blog post.
If you blog, then you can help. If you tweet, then you can help. Post on Facebook? Then, you can help. Engage with people online? You. Can. Help.
Plus, you never know who you might reach with your efforts. There could be someone in your network who has more time, more money, and more resources – that someone might care enough to take your efforts even further.
1.) Sign petitions to help stop the ivory trade:
–End the Ivory Trade in the State of California (At the time of this writing, signatures were at 5,527, and they’re trying to reach 7,500. Please help reach this important goal. It will only take a minute of your time.)
-March for Elephants (Help reach their goal of 10,000 signatures – currently at 7,710.)
Stop Wildlife Trafficking (scroll down the page, and you’ll find this particular petition on the left)
End Elephant Slaughter (scroll all the way down the page on the WWF site to find this petition)
2.) Need some exercise???
March for Elephants – an inspirational cause to raise money and awareness for imperiled elephants.
3.) Tweet and share on Facebook/Google+/LinkedIn your support of these organizations who are working tirelessly to save the elephants:
4.) Reblog this post (or any post written about the war on elephants) to your followers
All of the above ideas don’t require much money or time. But, they do require compassion. And, there is plenty more you can do if you are willing to invest some money and/or time. Any of the above non-profit organizations can use donations and volunteers. Visit each site for information about their specific strategies to protect one of the world’s most iconic animals.
Ivory is only as valuable as we make it. So, don’t.
What will you do to help the elephants?