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Op-Ed: Breasts, bums, sex and ivory sell at Amsterdam fashion week

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By Adriana Stuijt     Jan 30, 2009 in Arts
Amsterdam 's annual fashion week has turned soft porn into a fine art with its constant parade of nude "African-style' male and female models. It's all so much classier than those deeply sad boys and girls in Amsterdam's red-light peep-shows, isn't it?
Top international jewellery designer Bibi van der Velden has not only turned soft-porn into very classy annual fashion shows -- nearly as exquisite as ballet, which of course also used to be a form of soft-porn - -- but also manages to pass off her exquisite, handcarved ivory jewellery as 'mammoth tooth'. How does one get away with this? It's easy: the creative use of fuzzy fashion language.
The super-popular Van der Velden refers to her classy peep-show as 'creations with African accents', and as we all know, African people always have this child-like habit of always hopping about in the hot veldt stark-naked... If you've ever climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, you'd know better but sex sells, so why not?
She loves to have her 'African-style" models trot down the catwalk semi-naked - proving the old adage, so beloved in the advertising world, that sex, tits and bums, and in this case also penises, always do sell.
Some of the world's top fashion photographers and keen amateurs alike all were eagerly snapping away to capture every titillating bit in exquisite detail - wasn't this just ever so much classier than those rather pathetic girls and boys from East Block countries pressed into service inside the peep-show windows of Amsterdam's tiny red-light district? see the fashion show pictures here
The artistic Van der Velden, a sculptress by profession, also is a world traveller and is inspired by her sojourns into strange places, turning her annual fashion shows into major happenings in Amsterdam and around the world. This year, she exhibited her recent Fine Jewellery line. which features hand-crafted pieces of gold, platinum, diamonds and 'mammoth tooth' against the bodies of black fashion models who were not wearing much else.
In her jewellery, she uses any material she happens to come across during her travels, from peacock feathers to her 'mammoth teeth'. It's a puzzle though, don't you think? Mammoths have after all been extinct for thousands of years. Where does she dig out enough mammoth teeth to fashion her jewellery from? Ísn't it all just plain old ivory? I've asked her for her comment - and she has a great sales pitch, she says that 'those things are found because of global warming in the faraway reaches of Siberia, and they really are made of 'mammoth teeth... and isn't it wonderful that something which is centuries old, can still be worn...' .
But of course these are mammoth teeth! Heaven forbid. She would not be using an outlawed material such as ivory - because otherwise the elephants of India and Africa would become just as extinct as their gigantic great-great-grand-pappies, the woolly mammoths? see
Bibi exhibited her collections at Sotheby's in Amsterdam and at the Leiden Museum of Antiquities this week - Mammoths have been extinct for many centuries but people still claim that one can eat mammoth steaks in restaurants... too, probably also because of global warming. course they are.
Those valiant elephant herds, thanks to the official ban on trading their beautiful, coveted teeth, hide and 'mammoth steaks', are still surviving somehow. But for how long, when fashion designers keep on creating a market demand for such precious materials by using them in their trend-setting fashions?"
Massive slaughter of nature's most intelligent animals:
Between 1979 and 1989, at a time when there was a legal ivory trade, African elephants were poached at such a rapid rate that the continent-wide population was cut from 1.3 million to approximately 600,000. The scale of poaching was so great that it threatened African economies, requiring countries to expend tremendous resources to fight poachers. Many human lives were lost in these ivory wars, both poachers and game wardens.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) tried—but failed—to control the legal ivory trade. Most ivory in trade came from poached elephants. In 1989, CITES agreed to place all populations of African elephants onto CITES Appendix I, thereby banning the international trade in elephants and their parts, including ivory. This widely supported ban halted the devastation of elephant populations and provided the mechanism by which African elephants began their slow, but promising, recovery.
Limited Trade
In 1997, responding to repeated requests from Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, CITES transferred the African elephant populations of those countries to CITES Appendix II. CITES also agreed to allow Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe to export ivory on a one-time, experimental basis to Japan.
This trade occurred when 49.5 metric tonnes of government-stockpiled ivory from Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe was exported to Japan in 1999. That represents many tens of thousands of elephants, intelligent creatures who live in close-knit family groups.
Following this export of ivory, between January 2000 and June 2002, at least 2,563 tusks, 14,648 ivory objects or pieces and more than 6.2 metric tones of ivory were seized.
During the same period, 1,059 or more African elephants were found poached just for their tusks. (None of this ivory can be imported legally into the United States because the U.S. African Elephant Conservation Act prohibits such import.)
In 2000 the South African elephant population was also finally placed on Appendix II, and in 2002 CITES agreed to allow Botswana, Namibia and South Africa to export ivory on a one-time basis to approved "trading partners."
Depending on the country, Appendix II also allowed for the export of elephant skins, tourist trinkets made from ivory and skins, and live animals from populations in these countries. In 2006 Japan was approved as the trading partner, but this export of 60 metric tonnes of government-stockpiled ivory has not yet occurred because the conditions established by CITES have not yet been met.
Ivory's connection to Japanese markets
Once tusks arrive in Japan, they are chopped into "blanks," which are turned into signature stamps (called "hanko"), and then distributed to thousands of shops.
Japanese law does not require that hanko sold in retail trade bear a mark to designate it as legal ivory.
This lapse makes it possible to launder illegal ivory into the retail trade - even sell it as 'mammoth tooth' for instance....
In December 1999, 420 kilograms of worked ivory was seized in Paris, reportedly on its way from Rwanda to Japan. India has stated that some of the ivory seized since 1997 was in the form of hanko "blanks," suggesting a link between the illegal ivory trade and Japanese markets.
Elephants would never be slaughtered but for the fashion industry
Poaching and illegal trade continue to threaten the survival of elephants in both Africa and Asia - but this would not exist if the fashion industry stopped creating 'trendy' products from ivory.
Between January 2000 and July 2002, at least 1,063 African and 39 Asian elephants were reported to have been poached for their ivory, while 54,828 ivory pieces, 3099 ivory tusks (equal to 1,550 dead elephants), and 6.2 tons of raw ivory (equal to about 794 dead elephants) were seized.
From October 2004 to April 2007, more than 41 metric tones of ivory have been seized, an amount that roughly translates into 20,000 elephants poached annually to supply illegal ivory markets. Illegal ivory trade and elephant poaching are at their highest levels since the 1989 ban was established.
The Impact on Asian Elephants
There are 34,000 to 51,000 Asian elephants in the wild, less than one-tenth the number of African elephants in the wild. Poaching for ivory, which is only found in male Asian elephants, is severely damaging the sex ratios of Asian elephant populations. A thriving ivory trade in Thailand is contributing to the rapid decline of elephants in that country and in neighboring Myanmar and Cambodia.
The Elephant Skin Trade
Under the 1997 decision, only Zimbabwe was allowed to export elephant skins. In June 1998, Zimbabwe sold 22 lots of dry, salted elephant hides, ears, trunks, and feet. The hides, accumulated since the 1989 ban, weighed 82.8 metric tonnes. Most of the hides were sold to companies in the United States and Japan. In the United States, elephant-hide cowboy boots are now offered by Tony Lama and Justin.
The Trade in Live Elephants
In August 1998, South African animal dealer Riccardo Ghiazza captured 30 baby elephants in Botswana and exported them to his warehouse in South Africa, where he beat them and deprived them of food and water during the "taming" process.
Ghiazza hoped to sell the elephants to zoos around the world.
The South African National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals discovered the elephants at Ghiazza's facility.
The group filed criminal animal cruelty charges against Ghiazza and was granted court permission to seize the calves to prevent further suffering
Fourteen of the abused calves have been released into South Africa's Marakele National Park, seven were exported to zoos in Europe,and nine live at a private reserve in South Africa.
The case highlighted the cruel techniques used to tame wild-caught elephants for pubic display.
The Number of Hunting Trophies Traded
Each year, CITES allows the export of ivory tusks as trophies from up to 960 African elephants from eight countries.
The United States is the major importer of elephant trophies; hunters have imported the tusks of more than 400 elephants annually in recent years.At this rate, the elephant population will soon go the way of the mammoth.
So what's in a name like 'mammoth tooth' ?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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