Elephants have roamed the wild for 15 million years, but today this iconic species face the biggest threat to survival due to continued ivory poaching. As long as there is a demand for ivory, elephants continue to be killed for their tusks. Today it is estimated up to 26,000 elephants are killed annually.
In the early 1970s, demand for ivory rocketed with 80% of traded raw ivory coming from poached elephants. A ban was put in place in 1989 by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and all international trade was prohibited in an attempt to combat this massive illegal trade.
Major ivory markets were eliminated and some countries in Africa experienced a steep decline in illegal killing allowing some elephant populations to recover. Following a ‘one-off sale’ in 2008, the illegal trade rocketed with 2011 seeing the largest seizures of ivory since records began. Elephant populations declined rapidly as poaching escalated across much of Africa, fuelling the black market.
Today the demand for ivory continues, wild elephants are being slaughtered daily for their tusks.
For many individuals, especially in, but not limited to, Far Eastern countries, ivory continues to be a symbol of wealth, status and power.
Stemming demand for ivory from consumer countries is fundamental to the survival of the elephant species.
Organised bands of criminals are stealing and slaughtering elephants, rhinos and tigers in a way never seen before. Poachers are taking these animals, sometimes in unimaginably high quantities, and using weapons of war to efficiently kill large numbers of wild, innocent animals. Sub-machine guns, night vision goggles and even helicopters are used to slaughter up to 100 elephants each day. It's not just animals lives at risk, in the last 10 years, 1,000* rangers were killed protecting wildlife in the “war” against poachers.
The profits from wildlife trafficking are being traced to terrorist groups which in turn poses an increased threat to national security and economic stability. Wildlife crime is believed to be valued at approximately $23 billion.
* The Thin Green Line Foundation
Kenya’s port of Mombasa is the major transit route for the ferrying of illegal ivory from the East and Central Africa region. Ivory is often chopped into small pieces, polished and neatly cut into small cubes and circles to conceal the tusk shape during the scanning process.
The ivory chips are then packed in sacks and hidden inside a container which is then declared as normal export goods. Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta said he will lead calls for a "total ban on the trade of elephant ivory" at the CITES (Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species) conference in South Africa in September 2016.
In January 2014, in the first court case since Kenya introduced the new anti-poaching law, a Chinese man was convicted of smuggling ivory and ordered to pay $233,000 or serve a seven year jail sentence.
Under this new Bill, poachers, traffickers and those committing wildlife crimes are liable to fines of not less than 10 million Kenyan shillings (approximately USD 100,000) or to imprisonment of not less than 15 years or both.
A survey carried out by IFAW showed that 70% of the Chinese population believed that elephant’s ivory simply fell out and did not inflict any harm on the elephant in the process. This statistic is a firm reminder that education is fundamental to the future survival of elephants.
Through our iworry campaign, we seek to educate and inform Chinese communities in major cities around the world as to the reality of the ivory trade and the impact it is having on elephants.
Imagery, facts, figures and knowledge are used to inform community members, allowing them to make an educated choice as to their own future buying habits. Education is needed now, whilst efforts must continue to be made to secure a ban.
The implications of the illegal ivory trade affect us all. In Kenya, tourism supports approximately one in four jobs.
Those who work in tourism or as Park Rangers, as well as many other related occupations, depend on healthy populations of wildlife for survival.
Threats of terrorist activity linked with the illegal ivory trade impact deeply upon Kenya’s economy. The tourism industry alone supports approximately one in four jobs. Those working in the tourist industry, as well as related occupations such as Park Rangers, are dependent upon healthy wildlife populations for their livelihood.
Kenyan security forces are attempting to stamp out activity from the terrorist group al-Shabaab. Such activity puts tourists off visiting the country, which in time affects the funding for vital wildlife conservation.
The African Elephant Action Plan (AEAP) was implemented in 2007 at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES. Africa's elephants were facing serious threats due to continued poaching following the increased demand for ivory in consumer countries. Following the conference, all African countries with elephant populations were directed to create an AEAP to provide immediate action to protect the species.
Completed in 2010 by 38 African elephant range states, the AEAP identifies key objectives with clear strategies with Objective 1 being to: "Reduce illegal killing of elephants and illegal trade in elephant products".
The main aim of the AEAP is to address the crisis at a field level and note which physical actions are to be implemented and funded most urgently.
The 38 African elephant range States and authors of the Plan are: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Republic of South Sudan, Republic of the Sudan, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.