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Ivory trade wreaks havoc on human lives

March 31, 2015
topic:Hunting & Poaching
tags:#Born Free Foundation, #Elephant Action League, #elephants, #ivory trade, #Thin Green Line Foundation, #WildLeaks
by:Tamsin Walker
With the illegal ivory trade operating at levels that threaten to wipe out one of the most beloved species on the planet, conservationists are urging governments to open their eyes to the invasive reach of the lawless industry.

Elephants are being slayed in their tens of thousands every year. The savage business of tusk extraction not only jeopardizes the iconic species, but decimates communities, destabilizes national economies and ultimately poses a threat to global security. In short, the human toll of the ivory trade is massive.

The Thin Green Line Foundation says 1000 anti-poaching rangers have lost their lives in the line of duty over the past decade, with up to 80 percent reportedly killed by armed militias and commercial poaching groups. The impact on those they leave behind is both emotional and financial.

"Many are the sole breadwinners and when they're killed their families are left destitute," Adam Roberts, CEO of the Born Free Foundation told FairPlanet.

Into the hands of terrorists

The destruction doesn't stop there, but litters the illegal ivory trade routes that criss-cross the globe. Young men lured into poaching by the promise of easy money, end up dead or in prison, ports become hotspots of corruption, and countries such as Kenya which rely on wildlife tourism, feel the effects of a crumbling industry.

While elephants once fell to subsistence hunting or small-scale poachers, they are now at the mercy of criminal syndicates that are also involved in drugs, weapons and terrorism. And that, says Roberts, is cause for real concern.

"The involvement of insurgent terrorist outfits and criminal syndicates in the ivory trade puts entire regions and communities at risk and creates a significant level of instability at a time when people are yearning for national security," he said.

A new approach

Yet still tusks are being collected at an alarming rate. Andrea Crostas, Executive Director of Elephant Action League (EAL) is determined to reverse the trend. But before that can happen, there is a need for a change in thinking. His new EAL campaign to raise awareness of the human toll of the ivory trade is the first step, and it takes an unusual approach in that it entirely removes animals from the picture.

"It is the first campaign ever where you neither see an elephant nor read the word elephant," Crostas said. "We decided to leave it out to inject a new narrative to raise the bar of the conversation and confront governments and consumers with a different set of responsibilities."

They, he says, include preserving human lives, upholding national and international security, and preventing a handful of criminals from getting rich at the expense of so many others.

"The ivory trade has to be stopped," he said. "We have understood that elephants are too weak as a reason, but the human toll is not."

No more domestic sales

Roberts says it is up to governments across the world to step up and invest the resources to stop criminal syndicates from plying their deadly trade. But besides securing an end to the illegal import and export of elephant tusks, he would also like to see domestic markets forced to close.

"Time has proved that if you allow trade in ivory, no matter where it is from, it is going to provide an opportunity for poachers to kill elephants and get new ivory into that same market place masquerading as antique or old ivory."

He believes the only way to prevent this is to shut markets down completely, which any country could do through a simple phase-out period that gives antique dealers six months to sell off their stock.

"After that, it should never be in the market place again, because as long as there is consumption of ivory, there will be poaching of elephants."


The Thin Green Line Foundation


Elephant Action League

Born Free Foundation

Article written by:
tamsin kate walker
Tamsin Walker
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