A few weeks ago, our endangered species of the week was the African Elephant. As a follow-up to that post, I’d like to point you in the direction of the latest issue of National Geographic magazine. In the October 2012 issue of National Geographic, Bryan Christy (with photos from Brent Stirton) has written a fascinating and depressing article about the international market for ivory. He helps us to see the link between religion (both Buddhist and Christian) and the killing of endangered elephants for their ivory. Over two years, he travelled to the Philippines, Thailand, and China to unearth an international smuggling problem where people demonstrate their devotion to God by slaughtering one of His most fascinating and complex creatures for their body parts. Definitely a must read for anyone interested in elephant protection and preservation.
A few interesting facts from the article:
- Poachers have been known to kill 50 to 300 elephants at once.
- Of the elephants that died in the region in 2011, 84% of the deaths in western Africa were due to poaching. In central Africa, poaching accounted for 90% of elephant deaths in 2011; in eastern Africa, the figure was 59% in the same time period. A region’s elephant population is most likely in decline if this fraction is greater than 50%.
- In 1989, President George H.W. Bush led the U.S. to a unilateral ban of ivory imports. If you see ivory, don’t buy it.
- It’s not just elephants who are dying – in the first half of 2012, 6 park rangers in Kenya died while protecting elephants; 23 poachers also died in the same time period.
Want to support elephants? Never buy ivory or ivory products. Check out the Save the Elephants button in the left column of this post.
If you’re interested in other types of international wildlife smuggling, check out these two books:
- The Dangerous World of Butterflies, by Peter Laufer. 2009. Lyons Press, U.S.A
- Stolen World, by Jennie Erin Smith. 2011. Crown Publishers, U.S.A.
Source: Christy, B. 2012. Ivory Worship in National Geographic Magazine. October 2012. pp. 28-61.