It’s Elephant Appreciation Day! They certainly do need a little extra appreciation these days. The figures for their future are shocking, so if we could all take a moment to work out how we are going to help, then that would be great. The above photo was taken when I was with my brother’s in Zambia a few years ago. I look like I don’t really appreciate that a bloody great elephant was walking past, but I did know it was there!
Here are some scary facts that might make you appreciate them just a little bit more:-
China remains the world’s greatest enemy to the elephant when it comes to smuggled ivory and it appears to be poised for further growth. Now that they have signed the pledge is the government going to take away the licenses they have recently given to over 35 new carving factories and stop sponsoring ivory carving lessons at schools like the Beijing University of Technology? What sort of approach is going to stop the Chinese from wanting to buy ivory when they are seen as status symbols, desired and purchased by the new elite wealthy set. A poacher who kills a rhino and removes its horn in India gets £210. By the time it reaches Hong Kong, Beijing or the Middle East the horn is worth £36,000 per kilogram, rivalling the street value of cocaine. Similar demand applies for the tusks and the concern is that by banning ivory trading the trade will be driven further underground.
Poaching is at it’s highest level ever, with very advanced techniques being used to kill entire herds in one go. The UN estimates that the illegal ivory trade has tripled just in the last decade.
1900 = 10 million elephants
1930 = 5 million elephants
1979 = 1.3 million elephants
2014 = 0.5 million elephants
It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out where this is all going, but just in case, like me you’re not very good with numbers:-
2035 = 0 elephants
The problem in Africa is how do you address the human-wildlife conflict issues because elephants can devastate villages and crops by trampling through blockades and eating all the food and vegetation. How can we find a way to protect and sustain the animals that suits the local communities? It is not easy to solve and requires a large investment of time and resources and locals are angry and resentful. Poverty and weak management and corruption are adding to the increase in poaching which has become a £75 billion trade, ten times more than it was a decade ago.
The charity who are doing great things for elephants called “Space For Giants” have the following solutions and certainly the money they have just raised will help develop their programme further:-
1. Community scout Network
2. Farm based deterrents such as chilli fences and loud noises
3. Electric fences have reduced crop raiding by more than 50%
4. Identifying the ring leaders
5. Training the next generation of wildlife conservationists
6. Creating “rights of passage” – specific areas and routes designed just for the elephants – making space for giants – just as the title says.
So, it remains to be seen what will work – the more we can encourage the tourism industry to grow, the more the elephants will be safe, because nobody is going to want to go on safari when there are only “the big three” – after the extinction of both the elephant and the rhino so we all need to collectively find a way to stop the poaching.