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article imageWhat are elephants good for besides ivory? How about their skin?

By Karen Graham     Sep 26, 2016 in Environment
Deep in the jungles of Myanmar, endangered Asian elephants are facing the same threat as African elephants, only it is far worse. Besides taking tusks, poachers there are skinning the elephants to feed a growing demand for skins in China.
The UK-based charity, Elephant Family, recently funded a dangerous and very risky undercover operation in the jungles of Burma (Myanmar). The photos they brought back are grisly, but they add substance to the growing problem of the illegal killing of endangered animals for profit being faced today.
The new threat is the skinning of elephants for their hides. Poachers are taking great sections of skin from the elephants they have killed, leaving the bloody carcasses to rot in the forests.
The skins are going to China where they are used in medicinal potions and as jewelry. Horrible as it may sound, the demand for the skins has been growing.
The skin is sometimes made into polished beads for macabre jewelry (pictured) that traders claim can...
The skin is sometimes made into polished beads for macabre jewelry (pictured) that traders claim can ward off ill-health.
Elephant Familg
Posing as buyers, the investigators found a workshop in north-east Burma that processed the elephant skins. They were told they had big orders for the skins across the border in China. "I have a customer in Guangdong," the workshop owner said. "I delivered 30-plus kilos of elephant skin for the first time. He sold it all, and needed to order more."
From there the investigators traveled to a wildlife market at Mong La on the Burma-Chinese border. Mong La is beyond the reach of Burma's police, and everything is found there, from gambling to prostitution and money-laundering. Mong La is also one of the world's biggest hubs in the trade in endangered animals.
An investigator told the Daily Mail, "There is no police force and while we were walking around, we were offered tiger-bone wine from huge casks. In the market and in a number of specialist shops, there were live macaque monkeys in cages, tiger skins, a lot of ivory – much of it clearly smuggled from Africa – and piles of elephant skin openly on sale for £45 a kilo."
"We believe traders have become wary after clampdowns on the international trade in elephant ivory and have sought to create a new market in skins," the investigator added.
Across the border in China, the investigators traveled to an area known as "Elephant Valley." There visitors can see live elephants and circus-style shows. They can also buy beaded necklaces and bracelets made from elephant skin.
According to Elephant Family, Myanmar's government says that elephant poaching increased by 25 percent between 2013 and 2015. Over 420 kilograms (926 pounds) of elephant hides were recently seized in southwest China where the skins go for about $76 a kilogram.
Demand for the skin (pictured) has created a dramatic increase in poaching of Asian elephants. The B...
Demand for the skin (pictured) has created a dramatic increase in poaching of Asian elephants. The Burmese government says it knows of four cases in the past few months, but unofficial sources say at least 50 animals have been killed and skinned this year alone.
Elephant Familg
This year, more than 50 Asian elephants have been slaughtered in Myanmar, four of them this month alone. “I am very concerned about this trade. It is very new,” Dr. Khyne U Mar, an Asian elephant expert known as the Elephant Lady of Burma, said, according to the Daily Mail. “We recently started finding increasing amounts of cut-up, dried elephant skin.”
Currently, there are only about 2,000 Asia elephants left alive in Burma's jungles, although several thousand more are owned by the government for use in the country's forestry industry. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) spells the problem out very clearly. "Wildlife crime is a big business. Run by dangerous international networks, wildlife and animal parts are trafficked much like illegal drugs and arms. TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, estimate that it runs into hundreds of millions of dollars."
More about Elephants, Asian elephants, illegal poaching, growing demand, China
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