Animals at Risk: Elephant Slaughter, Circles of Death

WWF Anti Poaching Campaign

World Wildlife Fund Anti-Poaching Campaign

ELEPHANT GENOCIDE IS UGLY.  What can you do ? It’s a crime of epic proportions:  At least 35,000 African elephants were slaughtered  last year for their tusks, according to experts who track the deaths. The U.S. – and a few other countries – have stepped up with new plans to destroy government-held ivory stockpiles, strengthen Endangered Species Act sanctions, toughen requirements for sale of  antique ivory, and more.  An international ban on elephant ivory was put in place in 1989 –  CITES effectively banned the international commercial trade in African elephant ivory by placing the species on Appendix I. But there are loopholes,  and some countries ignore both the spirit and the letter of the law. The likelihood is that African elephants could become extinct in the wild in the next 15 years.

Check out this hour-long radio broadcast Diane Rehm Show, National Public Radio  March 4 2014  Three experts discuss the elephant slaughter and new policies to stop ivory trafficking.

The world’s largest ivory market is China, say experts.    China opposes “illegal” ivory but owns “legal” production factories and controls retail operations that earn millions from selling carved tusks, elaborate pieces, and even smaller trinkets to a wealthy and voracious market. See CBS News undercover video Would it shock you that the U.S.  since the 1989 ban has allowed some ivory imports and sales of elephant ivory? Who knew ?  That has to stop completely – and will.   (see below)

Forest elephants in the Congo. Courtesy of Wildlife Conservation Society

Forest elephants in the Congo. Courtesy of Wildlife Conservation Society

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?  Ivory has  been a high-value commodity for over one thousand years. Just go to museums, major cathedrals and holy places to see “works of art” and religious items carved from tusks.  Who among us, years ago, stupidly purchased an ivory necklace or trinket,  and did not understand that the elephant paid with its life? In Africa, ivory is like diamonds or gold –a resource that can be “extracted” no matter what the cost (including extinction). Raw ivory is smuggled to southeast Asia  and finely worked into elaborate and expensive items for wealthy Chinese buyers and people who want so-called religious relics. Elephant Genocide Tactics

Aborted elephant calf and headless mother. Courtesy Elephant SOS.

Aborted elephant calf and headless mother. Courtesy Elephant SOS.

Some poachers have resorted to poisoning watering holes (in Zimbabwe), lacing the water with industrial cyanide used in gold mining. The poisonings create circles of death–killing the elephants plus hyenas, vultures and smaller animals that come to drink or to eat the poisoned elephant carcasses. Read the story  Last year, Green News Update reported on the March 14-15 vicious attack in Chad that was mounted on horseback, with poachers using AK47’s to bring down at least 86 elephants. Read the story– it will sicken you. Some 30 pregnant cows aborted their fetuses; calves on the ground were slaughtered. Nat Geo story From Nat Geo: ” The [March 14-15] massacre occurred in the closing hours of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) 16th Conference of Parties (COP16) meeting (held in Bangkok March 3-14), where the topic of elephants was high on the agenda. “The timing was also just weeks after the discovery of 28 elephant carcasses, all stripped of their ivory tusks, in Cameroon’s Nki and Lobeke National Parks and at least 15 carcasses across four separate locations in Central African Republic.” “All these incidents followed numerous reports of columns of Sudanese poachers crossing Central African Republic and heading toward Cameroon and Chad.” Some attacks are orchestrated by outsiders with access to helicopters and assault weapons. According to Humane Society International, “ Several African militia groups, such as Janjaweed in the Sudan, Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, and Somalia-based Al-Shabaab, have engaged in elephant poaching and used profits from sale of the ivory to fund their …activities.” Some poachers are from local populations who stand to earn more from killing elephants – and other sought after wildlife, such as rhinos – than they can possibly make from farming or other legitimate occupations. Fast Forward to 2014 In recent months, the U.S.and a few other countries have stepped up –once again — with plans to quash illegal trade in wildlife. On Feb 14 the U.S. announced a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. “Today we are announcing a ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory, which will enhance our ability to protect elephants by prohibiting commercial imports, exports and domestic sale of ivory, with a very limited number of exceptions. This ban is the best way to help ensure that U.S. markets do not contribute to the further decline of African elephants in the wild.”  Read the full document

Elephant Tusks and Ivory Products/Courtesy USFWS

Elephant Tusks and Ivory Products/Courtesy USFWS

The plan’s three goals:

  • strengthen domestic and global enforcement;
  • reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife at home and abroad; and
  • strengthen partnerships with international partners, local communities, NGOs, private industry, and others to combat illegal wildlife poaching and trade.

Here are major actions (quoted verbatim): Federal departments and agencies will immediately undertake administrative actions to:

  • Prohibit commercial import of African elephant ivory: All commercial imports of African elephant ivory, including antiques, will be prohibited.
  • Prohibit commercial export of elephant ivory: All commercial exports will be prohibited, except for bona fide antiques, certain noncommercial items, and in exceptional circumstances permitted under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Significantly restrict domestic resale of elephant ivory.


Get smart – learn more Diane Rehm Show, National Public Radio  March 4 2014 : Three experts discuss the elephant slaughter and new strategies to stop ivory trafficking Blood Ivory article in National Geographic (2012) Humane Society International (HSI) Don’t Buy Wild has valuable background information HSI Elephant trafficking and bantimeline (1970’s to 2011) Background on the international ivory ban1989 CITES appendix 1 TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network –a joint program of World Wildlife Fund and IUCN – the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Take action – speak out/write/donate  Elephant SOS Wildlife Conservation Society