During a week when the world learned that yet again a massive slaughter of elephants has taken place, this time of 89 elephants in Chad, many of which aborted upon being shot, I am struck by this video from ABC World News, which takes us inside the Apostolic Palace that Pope Francis I now calls…
Little Fellow was a good-looking young bull with splayed tusks and ear lobes that curled out. But he would not live long enough to pass his genes on to the next generation. Born in the late 1990s, Little Fellow entered a world that was pretty safe for elephants. But today, 24 years on, it certainly isn’t. The ongoing slaughter is threatening the survival of the species, as well as tourism, economies, and stability in many African countries.
Sunday is opening day for the two-week-long 16th meeting, in Bangkok, Thailand, of the world’s leading body for regulating the world’s wildlife—the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). How will the gathering decide on the issue of legalizing the sale of ivory?
“And you can smell it; it’s almost like dried blood. There is the smell of death in here. All of these are confiscated trophies.” Reports investigative journalist, Aidan Hartley. We’ve just been given exclusive access to an astonishingly vast warehouse of government owned ivory in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
For our series finale, Aidan meets with Khamis Kagasheki, minister of natural resources in Tanzania, which stores the world’s largest stockpile of elephant tusks in the world — 90 metric tons. Kagasheki agrees to allow us to take the first-ever footage of the vast warehouse that stores thousands of tusks, valued at $50 million.
Most experts believe China is the world’s leading consumer of ivory products, and, according to a recent survey conducted to support our upcoming National Geographic Special, Battle for the Elephants, China’s demand for ivory products is at an all-time high. According to the poll, 84 percent of Chinese middle and upper-middle class consumers surveyed plan to buy ivory goods in the future. That represents a very large number and a very grim future for elephants.
According to Bryan Christy, these two sales gave cover to ivory smugglers in China, and the underground market exploded. According to CITES, 25,000 elephants were killed in Africa last year, though other observers say it could be many more. In Tanzania alone, poachers kill 30 elephants a day. The International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates that 84 percent of the ivory sold in China is illegal.
Since the opening up of the Chinese market and the growth of its economy, ivory, once a precious material available only to the ruling elite, has become increasingly available to the growing Chinese middle class.
A luxury goods store in Beijing allowed our cameras into their showroom where Christy explains how those auctions complicate what’s for sale legally and what’s not.
“I take every chance to share my campaign and the difficulties elephants are facing,” says Celia Ho, a 14-year-old student from Hong Kong who launched a campaign to stop ivory consumption after reading Bryan Christy’s “Blood Ivory” article in National Geographic. Her young voice represents a new hope for elephants that is increasing throughout Asia, while her story illustrates how one person can make a difference.
The conservation charity ElephantVoices has launched a campaign on two powerful pieces of graphic art by New York artist, Asher Jay. The artworks, with the slogans, “Every Tusk Costs a Life; Don’t Buy Ivory” and “Every Tusk Costs a Life; Stop the Trade” target potential buyers and decision-makers, and are also specifically directed toward a Chinese audience. China is believed to be the largest market for illegal ivory, a trade which is causing the poaching of more than 2,000 wild elephants per month.
Through a taxing series of twists and turns, I find myself on assignment in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, about to go undercover with Aidan Hartley. Hartley is a seasoned war correspondent and investigative journalist, and no greenhorn when it comes putting his life on the line to get a story.
Our goal is time sensitive and dangerous: capture video of criminal ivory traders selling poached ivory. Once embedded, we have just a 3-day window to operate in the city; we fear pushing our investigation further could trigger the slaughter of more elephants.
Readers of this blog and other news related to the calamitous trends in the large-scale poaching of African elephants have another word to add to the vocabulary of crimes against nature: Minkebe. I did not share the shock that the news release from the Office of the President Ali Bongo Ondimba brought to most readers.…
With just seven days remaining before Bryan Christy’s Blood Ivory article hits the newsstands, we’re down to the wire. A complete story is within our grasp, but it’s uncomfortably obvious that we don’t yet have enough. Our legal team insists that we remove ourselves from the field before “Blood Ivory” is released. Sensing the pressure, the reality is that we either deliver now or come up short.
Anticipating the scramble, we had split into two teams. I’m on the ground in Dar es Salaam posing as an ivory buyer with Aidan Hartley. Our goal is simple: capture the bad guys on film, red handed. Our second team is in China, their objective is much more complex: explore the driving forces behind the growing demand for ivory.
Gabon’s Minkebe National Park, once home to Africa’s largest forest elephant population, has lost 11,100 elephants to the illegal ivory trade in recent years, the Wildlife Conservation Society says. If we can find hundreds of millions of dollars to fight terrorism in Mali, we should be able to find the resources to combat this last big push by poachers, which may well be the final blow to a species that has just about gone extinct in the majority of countries where it once ranged.
According to CITES experts, more than 25,000 elephants—an estimated 12 percent of the world’s elephant population—were killed in Africa last year alone, and some say the numbers could be much higher.
In a new Web series, National Geographic filmmakers share their experiences documenting the illegal ivory trade. Follow journalists Bryan Christy and Aidan Hartley as we go undercover and inside the criminal network behind ivory’s supply and demand.
What does it actually mean to “harmonize” elephant mortality and why should we do it? The simple answer is that with many people engaged in elephant conservation in Kenya, we need to agree on the actual figures, so that we can document what is going on and react in an appropriate way. In reality the situation is a bit more complex.
Poachers are capitalizing on the disarray in the Central African Republic (CAR) and appear to be moving freely in a search of elephants. Late last year several columns of Sudanese poachers, up to 200 well-armed men, were spotted traveling across northern CAR toward Chad and Cameroon. Reports last week indicate that these poachers are moving back-and-forth between CAR and Chad.
Shifra Goldenberg, a Colorado State University student researching the effects of poaching and other disruption on the social structure and survival of young female elephants, shares memories and thoughts of the recent poaching of a young elephant in a wildlife conservation reserve in Kenya. The bull, known to the research community as Phylo, was found with his face hacked off and ivory stolen by gunmen who came for him under the light of the full moon.
The Society for Conservation Biology’s Religion and Conservation Research Collaborative released a statement last week calling upon the world’s religious leaders to stop using elephant ivory. As the statement notes, “In addition to the ethical concerns raised by the possible extinction of elephant populations or species, the ivory trade is associated with considerable bloodshed for humans as well as elephants.” The Collaborative concludes that “the requirements of religion and conservation should be and, indeed, can be complementary in reaching the best possible outcome whereby religious faith is respected and the future of elephants safeguarded.”
The new wave of killing of elephants in Africa is in many ways far graver than the crisis of the 1970s and 80s. Firstly there are fewer elephants, and secondly the demand for ivory is far higher. Record ivory prices in the Far East are fueling poachers, organised crime and political instability right across the African elephant range. And the situation shows no sign of calming.
More elephants were slaughtered for their ivory in Kenya this weekend, including 20-year-old Phylo, an elephant known to wildlife conservationists.
Dear friends of Changila, I am deeply moved by all your letters, which I have read over and over again. Thank you. [You may read and add to the letters to Oria at the foot of her blog post Saluting Changila.] I share your feelings of rage and sadness. It will be a long battle to…
“We are absolutely convinced that the massacre of elephant is a very serious matter,” writes Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, in a response today to our correspondence about the use of elephant ivory for devotional icons by some Catholic followers.
As Father Lombardi points out, it was emails from readers of A Voice for Elephants blog to his office that encouraged him to write this letter. Please continue the conversation by commenting here and also, if you wish, by writing directly to his office.
The religious use of ivory is among the least publicized and seemingly most easily correctable drivers of the massive elephant slaughter now taking place across Africa. Does the Vatican consider the use of ivory religious carvings and ecclesiastical gifts to be morally wrong or at odds with Church doctrine? There has been no response to several requests National Geographic made to the Vatican to clarify the Church’s position.
The large number of mature and experienced African elephants being killed illegally for their ivory is exposing younger surviving elephants to a higher risk of mortality from predation and other risks, wildlife conservationists said today.
On January 3 Oria Douglas-Hamilton flew in tribute over the mutilated remains of an elephant named Changila, slaughtered outside Kenya’s Samburu National Park. He was killed the day after her 80th birthday. She pays tribute to the elephant and mourns the loss of another victim of the illegal ivory trade.
Right now, the subject of ivory trading is on everyone’s lips: to trade or not to trade? There’s also a lot of talk about reducing demand by targeting consumers with awareness campaigns. But no one talks about targeting the individuals, governments, and vested interests that stimulate the trade.