What Can We Do For the Gentle Giant?

A herd of elephants by the river at Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady, India. PHOTO: Rosanna Abrachan

A herd of elephants by the river at Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady, India. PHOTO: Rosanna Abrachan

Predation of elephants has increased in recent years, with as many as 100,000 African elephants being killed between 2010 and 2012, according to an elephant researcher at Colorado State University. Nearly 60 percent of Tanzania’s elephant population has been wiped out in the past six years, the report indicated. Increased demand in Asia, where a single tusk can fetch up to $200,000, has fueled the increase in poaching. August 12 marked the fourth annual World Elephant Day, a day to “bring attention to the urgent plight of Asian and African elephants,” according to a Web site about the annual event. There may be fewer than 400,000 African and fewer than 40,000 Asian elephants remaining in the wild, the Website says.

Stories of elephants abound, from the animal’s connection to Coventry and Alabama to how rangers are teaching young ones reared in captivity to ‘go wild’. Then there are the numbers:

15 minutes – How often an elephant is slaughtered by ivory poachers.

76 times more – How much more an elephant is worth alive than it is dead. An elephant tusk can sell for $21,000 on the black market, but a single living elephant can draw billions of dollars over the course of its lifetime if properly taken care of.

$22,966 per year – The amount of money tourism can accumulate per year from a single elephant. Elephants draw in visitors to national parks and wildlife refuges in many parts of Africa and Asia, providing capital to local communities in developing nations.

$1,607,624.83 – How much a healthy adult elephant could have contributed to the local economy over the course of its lifetime, had it been kept alive.

300 – The amount of tusks collected and sold that funded terrorism by Seleka rebels when they overthrew the Central African Republic (CAR) government. Poachers often profit off of elephant slaughter as a means to fund human slaughter as well. In 2008, 800 people were killed by Kony, whose army was likely heavily supplied with guns and ammunition paid for from dead elephants.

70 years – The average lifespan of a healthy elephant is only slightly lower than the average life expectancy of a human being (78.8). However, female elephants typically produce offspring every 3 to 5 years, meaning that the rate of reproductive activity is much slower and therefore the potential to wipe out populations in any given area is much higher.

35,000 – How many elephants will die each year by poachers looking to kill for the sole purpose of selling ivory.

$44,554,844 – How much money has already been lost to tourism due to the slaughter of elephants.

There’s also the interesting development of how ivory buyers are inclined towards supporting a ban on its sale. A new international survey published by the National Geographic Society and Globescan, says that the majority of people who buy ivory products, would also support banning the sale of ivory. The research shows that 67 percent of likely ivory buyers, including current owners, would support a government ban on all ivory trade.

On July 29, after months of work, the FWS issued a proposed revision of the ESA 4(d) rule to close loopholes that have allowed illegal ivory to be sold in the U.S. for decades. The proposal takes the necessary steps of banning the commercial sale of most ivory in interstate or foreign commerce, with some exceptions intended to allow the domestic sale of items that are clearly not contributing to the elephant poaching crisis.

The rule would require sellers to demonstrate that items for sale containing ivory qualify for an exemption from the law so consumers may be assured they are purchasing a legal product. It also tightens the Congressionally mandated ban on the import and export of raw and worked ivory, with some targeted exceptions.

Taking these critical steps will help to ensure that the U.S. no longer serves as a destination for poached ivory and will stop the inadvertent support of extremist groups by American consumers that have unwittingly purchased illegal ivory.

Read more here.

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