via Onslaught on Africa’s elephants by Tessa Reed for TourismUpdate 17 Tue, Sep 2013
While the poaching of elephants in Africa continues to increase, conservationists have called for a moratorium on the ivory trade and warned that the species faces extinction.
According to WildlifeDirect, an organisation founded by conservationist Richard Leakey to support conservationists in Africa, the continent has lost 75% of its elephant population, largely due to poaching. “The rate of poaching in Eastern Africa has risen to levels that could significantly threaten the local elephant population,” a recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warns. The report found Kenya and Tanzania had the worst rates of elephant poaching, accounting for 70% of global ivory trade.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) reported that the level of elephant poaching across all African sub-regions had increased over the last seven years.
Last week, the Zimbabwe Chronicle reported that 41 elephants had been killed in the country’s Hwange National Park after poachers used cyanide to poison salt pans. Rotting carcasses of dehorned elephants were found in the park. “It will go back on the food chain and hundreds of animals may end up dead,” Muyambirwa Muzzah, officer-in-charge and Tsholotsho Police Station Chief Inspector, was quoted as saying. [update on Hwange elephant poaching]
Sharon van Wyk, Director of Painted Earth Productions, journalist and film maker, believes that the rise of elephant poaching in Africa is linked to Chinese investment. She explained that Zambia’s Minister of Defence, Geoffrey Mwamba, had allegedly been detained for the possession of elephant tusks, but was released after claiming diplomatic immunity. The tusks were reportedly later found in the possession of members of the Chinese diplomatic corps in Lusaka, she said. The incident was also reported by the Zambian Watchdog and the report can be accessed here.
According to Van Wyk the situation is not unique to Zambia.
The Conservation Action Trust (CAT) has also linked the increase of elephant poaching to ivory trade in China. “Rising incomes in the Chinese middle class have led to the commoditisation of ivory and it is now being seen there as an investment item as well as a symbol of prestige,” the body says. According to CAT, highly organised gangs and corrupt officials are responsible for elephant poaching in Africa. CITES has also suggested that China is the world’s largest market for illegal ivory.
Kenya’s first lady, Margaret Kenyatta, recently called on the international community to place a moratorium on all ivory trade in order to save the elephant from extinction. Van Wyk was also in favour of a ban on ivory trade.
A report published this year and produced as an inter-agency collaboration between UNEP, IUCN and TRAFFIC found that poaching and the illicit trade in ivory was a very serious threat to elephant populations. Recommendations made by the report, titled Elephants in the Dust – The African Elephant Crisis, include addressing weak governance and corruption; enhancing national and international interagency collaboration to ﬁght organised wildlife crime; and strengthening anti-smuggling operations, customs controls and container search programmes.