After reading the article three times I realize that things are much worse than I imagined. The article reveals that the Sudanese Janjaweed responsible for crimes against humanity in Darfur, are financed by the ivory trade. I’m shocked, appalled and deeply saddened. It’s incomprehensible what these people are doing, at first.
The more I think about it, this revelation that the illegal wildlife trade is financing militias and warlords shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve been aware for some time that the illegal trade in wildlife is valued second only to arms. And I feel somewhat vindicated, in a past life I fought for the ban on ivory trade because I knew that it was driving a demand that could not be sustained by Africa’s and Asia’s elephants. The trade had to be stopped and working for the Kenyan government we were determined to do our damnest. But we were up against others who felt equally vehemently that wildlife had to ‘pay to stay’ – that was Robert Mugabe’s mantra (the Convention on Illegal trade in Endagered Species of wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) was hosted by Zimbabwe in Harare Zimbabwe in 1989).
That year, and every one subsequently, we came across all sorts of people, corrupt Japanese ivory dealers, foreign buyers, African traders, European and Americans who professed to be experts, and who would put us Africans down with comments like ‘admit it Paula, you are in under your head’. To their own detriment it only strengthened my resolve,..I was hard and cold. But not everyone can stand up to that sort of intimidation.
In a spectacular act of bravery, Kenya burned her massive ivory stockpile in 1989 to demonstrate that the value in those illegally acquired tusks had to be destroyed. If South Africa serious that the culling will not contribute to the sales of ivory they would burn their ivory too.
I sensed we were going to lose ground when the greed from African countries began to raise it’s ugly head. I left that scene a few years ago, disillusioned with the politics of wildlife trade, and today Africa and the world stands to lose some unique and precious elephant populations in west Africa.
Why? Because there are people out there who think an ivory trinket is a symbol of wealth. I really wonder what kind of people these are.
How can one feel pride in wearing jewelry taken from an elephants tooth. A tooth that has been hacked out of a dead elephant. An elephant shot in cold blood, injured, hurt, tortured. An animal with amazing senses – the vision of people, it can hear over 50 kilometers, through it’s feet! An animal that feels, loves, cries, mourns, plays, thinks and feels. An animal that communicates complex information in frequencies we cannot detect. If you have ever seen elephants in the wild you can’t help but feel humbled.
I think of the Japanese youth the Chinese teenagers, American, Australian, African and European tourists and business people, How can they believe that killing such a creature produce something beautiful?
There is a huge controversy and much anger expressed about the reopening of culling in South Africa. which is covered here, here and here It is likely that South Africa will seek to sell the meat and ivory to the highest bidder. It’s a decision many in poor African countries will see as logical. I see it creating and feeding a sick demand. It’s a personal opinion from someone who may be too close to wildlife.
I almost don’t want to ask this but is there anyone out there who actually seriously thinks that their ivory bracelet, or neck charm, or signature stamp is worth the brutal death of a majestic elephant?