10 Things You Should Know about the Elephant Crisis
By: Beth Stewart
R.I.P. mighty Satao. One of the largest and, arguably, most-loved elephants on the planet was recently killed for his massive tusks. According to The Tsavo Trust, 45 year-old Satao was shot dead by poisoned arrows May 30. His legendary tusks, which nearly touched the ground, were hacked off by poachers to feed what seems to be an insatiable demand for ivory across the globe.
For nearly five decades the iconic Satao thrilled tourists and evaded poachers in Tsavo East National Park. During that time he fathered many offspring. Some are still out there trying to avoid his fate. Whether or not they survive . . . is up to us. Here are 10 things to know about the elephant crisis.
10 Things to Know
1. One elephant is killed every 15 minutes.
2. Over 20,000 elephants were poached in 2013.
3. At the current rate they’ll be extinct in 20 years.
4. Violent conflict and ivory poaching are interconnected. Heavily armed crime cartels and militias use ivory funds to finance terrorism and wars in Africa.
5. Ivory carving has been a cultural tradition for centuries. Today, the majority of tusks are sent to Asian countries like China, Thailand and Vietnam where they’re carved into figurines, jewelry and even mobile phone cases.
6. Many people in ivory-buying countries don’t understand the true cost of ivory. They mistakenly believe it comes from tusks that naturally fall out, or from elephants killed by local people for their meat. Some even think the animals are painlessly anesthetized to have their tusks cut off.
7. Elephants cannot be de-tusked because they have a nerve running through most of their tusk just like we do in our teeth.
8. Elephant tusks do not fall out and grow back the way deer antlers do. The only way to obtain new ivory is to kill an elephant.
9. Evidence suggests elephants know they’re being hunted for their tusks. Big tuskers in Tsavo often try to hide their heads and tusks when helicopters fly overhead. (Satao was said to hide his tusks in bushes when people came near.)
10. Elephants are a lot like us. They live in family groups led by an experienced older matriarch. They help each other when one is injured or in danger. And just like us, they mourn their dead.
5 THINGS YOU CAN DO
1. Spread the word! To stop poaching we must stop the demand.
2. Don’t buy ivory products and encourage others not to.
3. Lobby your own government to fight wildlife crime, including ivory trafficking. Tell them this is not just about animals – poaching is part of a larger threat involving organized crime, arms proliferation and terrorism.
4. Write to the Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese ambassadors in your own country and politely ask them to close ALL their ivory carving factories. Explain why ivory trading should be banned.
5. Support organizations on the front line of the anti-poaching war.
If we make ivory products socially unacceptable we can stop this before it’s too late.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Beth Stewart.
Beth Stewart is an Associate Creative Director for Animal Planet. She spends most of her spare time volunteering with animals, photographing animals, advocating for animals and generally being wrapped around her two cats’ little paws.