Are you wondering why elephant poaching is at an all-time high when there was an Ivory Trade Ban put in place in 1989?
Some of you will remember the late 1980’s when there was worldwide outcry for elephants. Elephants were on the cover of Time Magazine, full page adds of hacked off elephant faces were sent around the world, people became aware and were outraged at the level of poaching that was taking place. IN 1979 there was an estimated population of 1.3 million, now down well below 300,000 in all of Africa – in Kenya 167,000 now down to around 30,000. Kenya burned it’s ivory stocks in 1989, and hallelujah CITES put a bad on trade in Ivory into place.
SO, why are we where we are now facing the extinction of the species?
Poaching DID slow down dramatically in the decade after the ban, and allowed some recuperation for decimated groups of elephants. Then, in 1997, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species allowed a “one-off sale” of 40 tons ivory stockpiles for Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to Japan. That sale took place in 1999. Poaching soared with what was perceived as a reopening for the Ivory market. And, the price of ivory soared.
In 2002 Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa received permission for another “one-off sale” of 60 tons of ivory stockpiles, which was raised to 101 tons and took place in 2008, to China and Japan.
Far from satisfying demand, the increased availability of “legal” ivory has only spurred consumer appetite as a status product. China increased the number of it’s gov’t operated ivory carving facilities. There is no way to tell “legal” from “illegal” ivory. At every CITES meeting, southern African countries lobby to sell their ivory. In 2008 they managed to get the IUCN to downgrade the official status of elephants from endangered to vulnerable – to the shock of many of us.
Here on the ground it feels clearly that the impending extinction of the elephants makes those who deal in it only more eager to get every bit of it that they can… That they are out to kill every elephant so they can get the very last piece of ivory.