Elephant populations everywhere are in grave danger, with species ranging in classification from vulnerable to critically endangered. The biggest causes of their fragility are habitat encroachment and poaching, which claimed 20,000 elephants in 2015, more than were born that year. Interestingly, these two causes may intertwined: in the minds of many locals whose livelihood depends on cultivating the land, habitat encroachment seems to necessitate killing or removing the elephants who live there, which in turn provides the perfect opportunity for poachers to swoop in and take the ivory that is in such high demand around the world. The UN Environment Programme found that over 63% of elephant rangelands will be occupied by humans by 2050.
Though an international ban on the once-legal ivory trade passed successfully throughout the ‘80s, political corruption and an illegal crime ring filled the void: in 2011, poaching caused 75% of elephant deaths worldwide. The ban had a fatal loophole, allowing ivory obtained prior to the ban to be sold, allowing poachers to claim the ivory was much older than it actually was.
Recently, China took great strides in cutting back on this dangerous and swiftly-accelerating industry, creating a plan to ban all trade by the end of 2017. “It’s a game changer and could be the pivotal turning point that brings elephants back from the brink of extinction,” said Elly Pepper at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Conservationists are hopeful that other countries will take note and implement their own measures to counteract this deadly trade, allowing elephant populations to recover before they face critically low numbers.
Source: Caughill, Patrick. “The Biggest Ivory Market in the World will End All Legal Trading in 2017.” Futurism. 4 January 2017.
Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
Biodiversity & Wildlife Crime Conference
Christopher J. Gervais, F.R.G.S.
Founder & CEO
LinkedIn: Wildlife Conservation Film Festival