In recent months the war against the elephants in Africa – which has claimed tens of thousands of lives of these intelligent and sensitive animals in the past decade – has escalated to the point where the species’ extinction is threatened if immediate action is not carried out.
Dozens of elephants are killed every day by soldiers in some of the African armies that the US trains and supports, including the militaries in Uganda, Congo and South Sudan, and by terrorist groups such as the Lords’ Resistance Army, Shahab and janjaweed. The money they realize from the sales of the poached ivory tusks fund and fuel their human rights atrocities.
A Princeton ecologist reported that “the huge populations in the West of Africa have disappeared and those in the center and east are going rapidly.” The forest elephants are on the edge of extinction.
What is driving the illegal poaching and trade is demand for ivory from Asia, especially China, where a pound of ivory can net $1000 in Beijing.
An estimated 70% of the illegally poached ivory is shipped to China where government factories use it to manufacture trinkets such as bookmarks, figurines, rings, cups, combs and chopsticks.
“China is the epicenter of demand,” said Robert Hormats, a senior State Department official, in 2012. “Without the demand from China, this would all but dry up.”
China’s violation of the 1989 moratorium on the international commercial trade in ivory by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, is on par with its destructive domestic environmental policies and actions. These policies have already caused the extinction of the pink Yangtze River dolphin; disease-producing toxic water and air pollution (which is spreading across the globe); food contamination; the absence of effective environmental impact studies on the construction of dams, resulting in floods.
Protests in China by environmental activists and of people uprooted from their land or urban homes for developers’ luxury building construction have been growing and need international recognition and support. Animal protection activists — who are trying to end the torture and wounding of bears by the painful thrice-daily extraction of bile from 20,000 of these animals (most of them endangered Asiatic black bears) incarcerated in immobilizing cages — also need support.
Because China is the prime cause of the elephant massacres in Africa, it follows that China should be the focus of the most effective serious efforts to end them. This would be an especially useful strategy now because China is spending huge amounts of money to raise its prestige and image worldwide, which it seems to feel is necessary. China needs to realize that adhering to international law prohibiting trade in ivory and enforcing its trade ban would be a big step toward improving its international image.
What can we do to persuade China to discontinue buying ivory tusks from poachers and end its production of ivory trinkets in its government factories? Here are some suggestions for action by local, national and international organizations:
Groups involved with conservation, animal protection, political advocacy and foreign policy as well as local and national institutions of faith communities, neighborhood associations and senior centers, schools, youth groups and social service agencies can:
• Pass and publicize resolutions calling on China to stop buying poached ivory.
• Call upon the leaders of their governments to urge this action by China; and to condemn
the slaughter of the elephants, both in private talks with Chinese leaders and officials and publicly.
• Press local and national governmental bodies to pass resolutions condemning the elephant
massacres and China’s support of the poaching of ivory tusks for their factories.
• Call upon their government leaders to bring up this issue at the UN, to encourage
discussion of it among the delegates, and to hold an international conference on this issue..
• Call upon their elected representatives to initiate and support the holding of hearings on
this issue in their national legislative bodies and to draft legislation with teeth to convince China to bring an immediate halt to its support of the poaching.
• Stop buying products made in/by China until it ends its involvement in the illegal ivory
trade and explain why to wholesale and retail vendors, as well as readers of their Facebook pages and other social media and the local print and electronic media.
Concerned individuals in all fields of endeavor can:
• Communicate to their governmental leaders (president, foreign secretary/minister, other
elected representatives), including local ones, and to boards and other bodies and members of local, national and international organizations in civil society, the necessity of taking effective steps to bring an end to the elephant massacres.
• Stop buying products made in China; and post their views and accounts of their actions on
this issue on their Facebook pages and other social media.
• Schoolchildren can carry out letter-writing campaigns to their elected leaders, and
pressure school officials to stop buying Chinese-made products.
• All who are reading this urgent message can forward it to their friends and post it on social
Hopefully, some of these strategies will work — and that their cumulative effect will generate sufficient public involvement to enable the creation of an effective coalition/organization/ movement to work on bringing and end to the massacres of the elephants and of the threat of their extinction.
Posted by Aviva Cantor