In the past many elephants were killed for their ivory. Deemed as precious as gold to those in the ivory trade, once killed, an elephant's corpse was largely discarded
as worthless. There was a time when an elephant's foot may have sold in Great Britain as a quirky umbrella stand. Thankfully those days are long gone. That is most of us assume that they are.
Today the BBC
has carried a report on the increased trade in ivory. A trade which leaves elephants cruelly killed and their young orphaned. The footage was not for the feint-hearted.
In Kenya the corpses of three elephants lay dead, all huddled together. It is assumed that in terror they had tried to escape and ultimately sought protection or solace from each other. They had not stood a chance. The killers had made sure that death was the only outcome. They were armed to kill.
A trail of dried, dark-blood led the investigators to the heap of dead flesh. Already the heat had turned the corpses 'alive' with maggots. The maggots had found a hold in the bloody faces of the elephants. When ivory poachers remove the tusks they do not do so slowly. They simply hack that part of the animal's face away, which will free the tusk. Discarded and unwanted the rest of the corpse is left to rot.
In the past
Elephant numbers declined with continuing hunts and the quest for ivory. By the 1980s the elephant population was under threat. Mankind's desire for ivory had led to almost half of the elephant population being wiped out.
Good sense prevails
In the 1990s an International agreement was reached. Countries around the world signed up to an international ban on the trade of ivory. In the UK, for example, only ivory of a certain age is sold. The ivory has to pre-date the ban. This should prevent further elephant deaths at the hands of ivory poachers.
China and ivory
As China has become more 'consumer' orientated there is a new class of wealthy individuals in that country. Dr Esmond Martin, a conservationist and researcher who has spent decades tracking the movement of illegal ivory around the world, according to the BBC
, maintains that "China is the main buyer of ivory in the world." African countries have tried to quell the trade but this has failed. Lagos, Nigeria, is now one of the biggest retailers in illegal ivory, in spite of a government clampdown in 2011. The latest elephant killings in Kenya are worrying. They are reportedly the biggest for some years. In September there were reports of a frenzied
killing of elephants, in the Congo, for their tusks.
Poverty and ignorance may be blamed in part. However for the ivory traders there is 'big money' to be made.