Migration is a natural part of an elephant’s life. Once, their migratory routes took them thousands of miles in search of nourishing habitat. With the advent of large human populations, their routes have become much shorter and contained. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the wet season, herds today still roam extensively as part of their inbred, survival wisdom. Now, an unnatural migration takes place after life ends.
Tuesday of this week, Malaysian authorities seized more than 1,000 elephants tusks, possibly the largest seizure ever (click here for story). 24 tons of ivory were hidden in large, wooden boxes labeled “floor tiles.” The tusks traveled a circuitous route to reach Malaysia. “. . . originating in the small West African nation of Togo, then going north to Spain, then east to Malaysia’s port of Klang and eventually destined for China. It is not clear where in Africa the ivory was from; conservationists say Togo is an emerging hub in the underground ivory trade and therefore the ivory might have been drawn from elephants killed across the continent” (source The New York Times).
Such an elaborate route of illegal merchandise requires the resources of highly sophisticated and organized crime rings. The poaching that is threatening the very existence of elephants is not that of poor individuals who kill for a once-in-a-lifetime bonanza. Rather, armed militias with AK47s and other wartime fire power track herds from the air, with night vision goggles and radios. They converge on a herd and slaughter it, removing the tusks with lightening speed and disappear into the bush. There, they may hide the tusks until vehicles arrive to whisk the tusks to a main artery, which leads eventually to a port or airstrip. The logistics are as finely tuned as those of UPS or Federal Express. It is big-time crime and will eventually destroy the elephant populations IF the demand for ivory continues to grow and be tolerated.
Help fight this criminal activity and create a future where elephants can continue their annual migrations, albeit more limited than what existed just one hundred years ago. For more on modern day elephant migration activity, go to Elephants Without Borders.