Worst year in decades for elephants

2011-12-29 14:43

Johannesburg - The wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC says the record number of large seizures of elephant tusks indicates it has been a disastrous year for elephants.

It says 2011 maybe the worst year for the world's largest land animals since ivory sales were banned in 1989.

The 2011 seizures represent at least 2 500 dead animals and indicate the growing role of organised crime from Asia. Most large seizures involve tusks being shipped from Africa to Asia.

TRAFFIC's elephant expert Tom Milliken said on Thursday the criminals seem to be winning this new war. Most large seizures do not lead to any arrests.

In the largest seizure, authorities in Malaysia on December 21 discovered hundreds of tusks worth $1.3m hidden in containers of handicrafts from Kenya.

  • Garth - 2011-12-29 15:24

    `. . . the criminals seem to be winning this new war. Most large seizures do not lead to any arrests.' Because Tom, as with the epidemic of rhino poaching in SA, a corrupt government does not punish its own. Without across the board government involvement in and support of elephant and rhino poaching, none of these abhorrent human practises would flourish. Poach the poachers.

      Henri James Christie - 2011-12-29 16:22

      I'm in support of a private anti poaching unit made up of ex SADF members with a simple mandate. Get rid of poachers.

      Garth - 2011-12-30 06:13

      Agree with the sentiment HJC, but government will not sanction the killing of their own. As with the rhino poaching, too many land owners, too many veterinarians, too many policemen, customs officials, game-rangers, politicians all getting their cut for the government to punish poachers effectively. The NP helped to finance the Angolan war using poached ivory and rhino horn(15000 black rhino alone). The Smith government of Rhodesia did the same. To too many people these graceful beasts are merely a commodity, to be exploited through their death, or by cramming them into boxes for human viewing pleasure. Torture the poachers to reveal the line all the way to the top - exterminate that to show how serious the problem is and people will start to listen again.

  • Eugene - 2011-12-29 16:53

    In Southern Africa, there are now more elephants than the game reserves can accommodate. I don't think elephants are in any immediate danger.

      Garth - 2011-12-30 06:06

      Ignorant and opinionated. And the population of elephants in SA is? The problem is too many ever-encroaching humans and bad management of the land under `conservation' to start with. The greater KNP of approximately 3,2million Ha. supports only 15 000 elephants. Too many elephants? Many properties are too small to support elephant - 50 elephants on 9000 Ha. is not sustainable - but this brings in tourists to that island of over-managed land and that makes the greedy land-owner or lodge-owner happy, with no real concern for the species involved, so they cannot really call themselves conservationists, can they? There are not too many elephants - there are too many humans and too much greed.

      Eugene - 2011-12-30 07:45

      Garth: I'm not sure I really understand your comment or its relevance to what I posted. You are right that habitat destruction is probably the single greatest threat to wildlife, often much more so than poaching. One way to encourage the preservation of habitat is to encourage game farming. That means game farmers must have the right to profit from their game. Thus a ban on the trade in elephant and rhino products is counterproductive (though such trade will obviously have to be very strictly regulated). You may well be right that there are too many greedy humans, but lamenting it is pointless. What solutions do you suggest? That we start shooting people? Thus far, all over the world, the only thing that has ever reduced population growth has been economic development and its accompanying increase in living standard. Thus any conservationist who does not encourage trade and industry, is not a conservationist but its opposite. The way to create more habitat for wildlife is to develop the economy so that most people move to cities, and then to keep the ecological footprint of those cities as small as possible by encouraging modern, industrial-style farming (which uses land the most productively), and game farming in the more marginal land. "Conservationists" usually vehemently oppose such policies. Thus the single greatest threat to the environment today is Greenpeace and other such organisations.

      Alva - 2011-12-30 18:01

      @ Eugene. The culling of certain animals is a very emotive issue but sometimes necessary. Would the commercial farming of rhino relieve the pressure of rhinos in the wild? I am not so sure but at this point any plan is better than none. The issue is the illegal poaching unlike controlled culling is inhumane and inflicts horrific suffering on the animals. Poaching should therefore never ever be tolerated whether animals are in abundance or not.

      Eugene - 2011-12-31 09:38

      Velastardust: Poaching should indeed not be tolerated, because it amounts to theft or vandalism (take your pick), and of course often entails dreadful cruelty. I am certainly not trying to condone poaching. Nevertheless, there are reasons why it happens. Those reasons are not an excuse, but if we can understand the reasons better, we can perhaps do something to reduce it. One of the well-known reasons is that game reserves are small islands of opulence in vast oceans of poverty, and under those conditions, thievery is more or less inevitable. Let the local population share in the profits (and meat from culls) generated by the reserves, and they no longer hide or indeed even tolerate the poachers in their midst.

  • Peter - 2011-12-30 07:15

    I cannot understand why Africa, which has the monopoly on world tourism because of its wild life, cannot wake up and preserve itself. Once the wild life is extinct it cannot be brought back to life again and a number of industries would lose their livelihood.

      adrian.strydom - 2011-12-30 09:21

      Simple's ruled by Africans.

      Eugene - 2011-12-30 11:22

      And once again, racism instead of actual arguments. What about Europe, then? It's been ruled by Europeans for the past fifty thousand years, and it has virtually none of its former and quite magnificent wildlife left. I guess it's because Europe is ruled by Europeans, huh? Let us not even start on how African wildlife was treated by European colonizers. No, we quite simply cannot point racial fingers here.

  • Alva - 2011-12-30 17:47

    It's all about money! Corrupt Africans and greedy Asians. The biggest threat to elephants and rhino come from Asia. Asians should be targeted. African governments are equally to blame for not preserving African wildlife. 10 years from now it will be too late!... And to think RSA is restocking depleted reserves in neighbouring states due to poaching!

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