THE SAD SLAUGHTER
OF ELEPHANTS FOR THEIR TUSKS
A massacre of the world's elephants
is going on right now. One hundred thousand African elephants were
been killed by poachers between 2010-2012 and the total population
of elephants in Africa has declined 64% in a decade.
This slaughter is occurring because elephants are killed for their
tusks. Ivory has long been a status symbol in Asia and increased
prosperity in China and southeast Asia has allowed a newly created
middle class to purchase ivory on the black market. Furthermore,
many traditional societies believe that ivory has medicinal powers
(which it does not) and it is often ground up to produce expensive
The continuing demand for ivory produces an army of poachers who
will fill this demand.These poachers are often allied with terrorist
groups who use the proceeds from the illegal ivory trade to finance
their activities. Because of this poacher/terrorist connection, the
poachers are often armed with sophisticated weaponry including
In an effort to protect elephants, The Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species ("CITES"¯) in 1989 banned the sale of
all ivory except "old estate ivory"¯. However, it left enforcement
to the individual countries and this has been the loophole. Some
countries did not sign the treaty and among those who did many do
not enforce it at all.
Concerted global action is required if we are to save the elephants.
As the secretary-general of CITES accurately states, "In terms of
concrete actions, we need to move to focus on the front-line and
tackle all links in the illegal ivory trade chain -- improve local
livelihoods (for those living with elephants), strengthen
enforcement and governance and reduce demand for illegal ivory."
WHAT CAN WE DO
TO PROTECT ELEPHANTS FROM
THIS TERRIBLE SLAUGHTER?
1. Support and expand
international, federal and state laws that regulate and prohibit the
2. Tell your legislators of your desire to protect elephants as this
will affect their policies on the importation of ivory. The same
legislators who take steps to protect wildlife in the U.S. are
generally interested in protecting wildlife elsewhere. Write or
email your state and federal representatives and ask what their
positions are on wildlife protection in general and elephants in
particular. When I contact my representatives, I always specifically
state that I would like a call or letter back.
3. Insist that the rules promulgated by CITES in 1989 be enforced.
China is the worst offender in terms of enforcement so please write
the Chinese embassy to express your opinions. Contact information
for the Chinese embassy is as follows:
3505 International Place, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
4. Do not purchase ivory yourselves. Even "old estate ivory"¯
(defined as ivory that was more than 100 years old at the time of
import) reinforces the idea that ivory is desirable. Frequently the
ivory you buy today is poached, despite the often forged
documentation that accompanies it.
5. Do not travel to countries in Africa that do not protect
elephants. Many African countries are not putting the necessary
resources into protecting elephants and other wildlife. Write to
their embassies and express your feelings on this issue and the
reasons why you are traveling (or not traveling) to their country.
Some nations, such as Kenya, are making an honest effort to protect
elephants and recently have been successful by employing drones to
For further information, please consult the following websites:
Anybody who loves
animals will be interested in this visionary project that will
protect North America's wildlife. It is called the WILDLANDS PROJECT
and it is about the creation of safe corridors for animals
throughout the continent. There are four proposed corridors (wildways¯)
three of them running North-South and one going East-West.
What is envisioned is an Eastern Wildway passing through the
Appalachians, a mid-continental corridor running through the Rocky
Mountains, an Arctic-Boreal corridor running through much of Alaska
and Canada and a Pacific Wildway traversing the Sierra Nevada and
Here is a map showing the corridors that we are creating:
Credit: Wildlands Network
It is not accidental
that the three North-South corridors run along the main mountain
ranges in North America. This is where the majority of large wild
animals still live and where the human population is thinnest. It is
along these corridors that we will protect the animals by giving
them the ability to travel in safety.
The current patchwork of unconnected parks does not allow the
animals to seasonally migrate to find mates and preserve genetic
diversity. Nor does it allow them to respond to the challenge of
climate change which is necessitating mass migrations to new habitat
and adding urgency to this essential project.
What we presently have are scattered parks and wilderness areas but
they are not connected or, if they are, the connections are too
narrow to serve as passage ways. Because of this, many hazards
confront the animals as they travel between places where they can
find sanctuary. There are freeways and busy highways as well as
fences and areas cleared for logging or development. There are
impassable walls at the Mexican border. How are the animals to
navigate all these dangers?
Wildways would provide safe passageway by providing continuous
protected wildlands. These will be made up of national parks, state
parks, wilderness areas, land trusts, and conservation easements
from private landowners who care about the environment.
The greatest innovation of this project is the realization that the
animals need a continuous, connected safe passage. Protected areas
have to connect or they can't serve as corridors. We can also assist
the animals by creating spaced wildlife overpasses or underpasses
across the major highways. Such overpasses already exist in Canada
and Europe and they are beautiful! The following links will show you
What are the practical implications of this for those of us
who love animals and want to protect wildlife?
First, we need to
make our legislators aware of the Wildlands Project so they will
know that there is an overall plan, a vision.
Second, we need to convince legislators to choose sites for
wilderness areas and parks within the proposed corridors. For
political reasons there is a tendency to create parks near large
metropolitan areas because that is where the voters live, but we
must convince legislators to also acquire land in the sparsely
populated mountain areas. This is challenging in a time of financial
Third, we will have to redefine "multi-use"¯. This is a contentious
subject in the management of state and national parks. We will need
to define "multi-use"¯ along the corridors in a way that is animal
friendly. Park signs often say "land of many uses"¯ but what does
that mean? Is hunting allowed in the park? Snowmobiling? Fishing?
All Terrain vehicles? Mining? Logging?
Fourth, we can speak to others about this project and suggest it to
students and teachers as an important subject for school
In all of the years that I have done environmental work I have never
been so excited about a project because this is a large bore answer
to a large scale problem. The Wildlands Project is not a timid
answer. It is multi-generational and it is worth doing, for us, for
the generations to follow and most of all for the animals
themselves. They don't want much - just the ability to live in
Here is a link that will give you more information on the Wildways
and the Wildlands Network that is working to create them:
THE IMPORTANCE OF
inherited an earth in danger and that danger is particularly
apparent in the war on predators that we have waged for centuries.
Predators are essential to any ecosystem because they keep the prey
species in balance with what the ecosystem can support.
Predators and prey will always come to a balance because if there
are too many predators (e.g. wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, bears)
the prey species will decline in numbers. The predators will then
not have sufficient food and they will decline until there is
sufficient balance for the prey species to recover. Then the cycle
People have interrupted this cycle in numerous ways. Pollution,
fences, logging, mining and loss of habitat, all symptomatic of
human overpopulation, have disrupted this natural cycle. There has
been a wholesale destruction of essential prey species, such as
prairie dogs, by builders and developers. Organizations such as
Prairie Dog Coalition, a project of the Humane Society of the United
States, work to preserve these keystone species and thus the entire
ecosystems which depend on them.
One factor in the decline of predators has been the use of lead
ammunition. Lead is toxic to living ecosystems. Because of its
toxicity, lead has been removed from paint and gasoline, and yet it
is still allowed as ammunition in most states. Predators will die or
suffer extremely negative long term effects from the ingestion of
just one lead shotgun pellet. Scavengers who then eat the carcasses
will suffer the same effects and so it gets passed along the food
Probably most damaging has been the wanton destruction of predators
by bounties placed upon the skins of predators such as coyotes and
wolves. Governmental agencies and bounty hunters were rewarded for
killing as many predators as possible. Australia currently offers a
bounty on foxes. Sadly, hunting and ranching organizations have
traditionally applauded this approach.
There is a new awareness of the importance of predators to any wild
ecosystem. When the wolves were returned to Yellowstone in 1995,
they preyed on the deer which meant that the deer populations were
brought more into balance with the ecosystem. Wolves take the
old and weakest, who cannot escape, while hunters shoot the largest
and most healthy so they can hang their horns on a wall. The effect
of this is that the healthiest animals in the herd do not get the
chance to procreate. Thus the wolves keep the species healthier in
the long run while the hunters keep it weaker.
There is a fascinating video on this subject
which shows how the return of the wolves to Yellowstone
reinvigorated the entire ecosystem. Wolves slimmed down the deer
herds, which in turn allowed the grasses, which the deer had been
eating vociferously, to return to the riverbed.
rather go naked than wear fur"
This, in turn, lead to more stable foundations
for the river’s banks which allowed the fish and beavers to return.
This lead to its repopulation by frogs, salamanders and other
river-dwelling species which in turn provide food for the predators.
Nature will return to a healthy balance if we just keep out of its
way. It may take decades, depending on the amount of damage we have
caused, but it will occur
Toxic Effects of Lead Ammunition:
Lead Ammunition: Toxic to Wildlife and the
Cultural Clash Between Hunters and Conservationists:
How Wolves Change Rivers (YouTube video):