Over the weekend, authorities in Hong Kong seized two enormous illegal shipments of elephant tusks (Four tons of African Ivory Caught in Hong Kong).
Together, they represent the death of about 600 elephants. Experts believe the ivory to be from elephants killed in Kenya and Tanzania.
During a press conference, a Hong Kong port official stated that discovering ivory in Hong Kong is an isolated incident; that the ivory was most likely on its way to Japan or Taiwan. Yet, Hong Kong has been a center in ivory carving for centuries, and 70% of illegal ivory shipments end up in China. Beware of official statements.
Tanzania too finds itself in a compromised position as it has recently been lobbying CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) to be permitted to sell its ivory stockpile to raise funds for anti-poaching activities. Since the CITES ban on trading ivory in 1989, only a few such sales have been permitted. Those that have taken place involved price fixing and resulted in even more demand for ivory.
It is difficult to track down the truth when the drama involves wild animals in remote areas, organized crime rings, multiple countries with entrenched corruption and a buying public that think elephants shed their tusks every year, just like deer shed their antlers.
But this we know to be true: harvesting tusks requires killing the elephant; elephant poaching is the highest it has been since 1989; stopping demand is the surest way to stop the killing.
Send the e-card above (click on dont_buy_ivory for a pdf version) to everyone you know. . .stopping the demand for items carved from elephant ivory is the only sure-fired way to make sure we have elephants forever.