Today I told you about a growing crisis on the African continent. I’m not talking about drugs or disease, but the disappearance of the largest land mammal on the planet: the African Elephant.
Elephants are being poached —- or illegally hunted —- for their ivory tusks, which can go for big money on the black market. And growing demand around the world is causing a steep decline in the elephant population.
As it stands, an estimated 436,000 elephants are alive today. That’s down from the nearly 26 million that used to roam the African Continent hundreds of years ago. And if the ivory trade isn’t curbed soon, experts estimate the African Elephant will be extinct in just ten years.
Because of the conservation crisis, the international community and the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, banned the sale of new ivory in 1989. However, exceptions to the ban exist: antique ivory—ivory at least 100 years old—is still legal to trade in certain parts of the world, and ivory in the form of a hunting trophy is legal to own with the proper permits.
Despite these measures to limit the trade, illegal ivory sales are at an all-time high. And reports from the United Nations and other independent organizations have linked ivory to the funding of terrorist militant groups, like Al Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, and the Lorde’s Resistance Army. These organized criminals will traffic the ivory to other parts of the world, where it will fetch top dollar on the black market.
70 percent of the trade happens in China and other countries in the far east, where ivory is often purchased as a symbol of social status, and can fetch up to $1000 per pound. But another large consumer is the United States, which just crushed the vast majority of its stockpile.
Overall, the trade won’t be stopped until demand is gone. And as long the trade continues, more elephants will be slaughtered at the hands of poachers. Here are three things you can do to help stop this bloody trade:
1. Don’t purchase ivory without proper verification that it’s legal. All ivory sold in the US should be antique, and come with an official certificate, documenting its age and origin.
2. Donate to conservation groups on the ground. They’re severely underfunded, and facing heavily armed, well organized poachers.
3. Spread the word. Ivory leads to the slaughter of elephants, however many people don’t realize this upon purchase.