Discovery Channel Sheds Light on Africa’s Ivory Wars
By: Jason Robey
In 1989, Discovery Channel helped expose a devastating situation in Africa with the world premiere of Ivory Wars. Along with widespread reporting from the international media, this landmark television documentary helped shed light on the severity of the elephant poaching situation in Africa.
The response was powerful and immediate. That same year, the international ivory trade was banned by CITES (the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species). Ivory prices plummeted as demand lessened, and elephant populations were given a chance to recover.
But in recent years, the picture has changed.
Despite a 23-year international ban on trade in ivory, Africa’s elephants are once again under siege. These intelligent and vulnerable creatures are being killed in increasingly large numbers for their ivory tusks, with much of it going to the Far East — especially China — where demand is very high.
As part of a growing global response to the situation, the Discovery Channel and the BBC have teamed up to investigate the illegal practices of both poaching and selling ivory from African elephants in the one-hour special Ivory Wars, premiering on Discovery Channel on Saturday, June 23, at 8PM e/p.
“When Discovery Channel aired the groundbreaking Ivory Wars
special in 1989, it really shed a light on where much of the world’s
ivory was coming from and the horrific practices being used to obtain
it,” said Eileen O’Neill, Group President, Discovery and TLC Networks.
“For many, it was an eye-opening experience. Now, with the African
elephant killings continuing at an alarming rate, it’s time to once
again bring this issue to the forefront and educate viewers about the
plight of these magnificent animals.”
Said Fred O’Regan, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) President: “The time to act is now! Last year (2011) was the worst year on record for large-scale ivory seizures. Elephant populations, especially those in West and Central Africa, are being decimated to furnish the insatiable demand for ivory in the East, notably China. We can’t afford to go back to the ivory wars of the 1980′s — Africa’s elephant populations will not survive this time around.”
In the special, filmmakers find tuskless elephant carcasses cast aside, visit an elephant orphanage to see first-hand the impact this poaching has had on the young and seek out ivory dealers in Africa and China — now the world’s largest market for illegal ivory. Many fear that, unless China curbs its massive appetite for ivory, the long-term future of the African elephant is in jeopardy.
And it isn’t just the elephants being killed for their tusks. In six years, the ivory war has claimed the lives of 12 wildlife rangers and more than 60 poachers in Kenya alone. Ivory is big business and poaching continues. In one area of northern Kenya, ivory poaching surged in 2011 to a level unprecedented in 14 years of monitoring while local prices for raw ivory increased from $28/pound to four times that much.
Ivory Wars is a shocking, in-depth look at the threats faced by these incredible giants from poachers and dealers, and an unfiltered glimpse into the struggles of those who strive to protect them.