Elephants could be extinct in 15 years
With the price of illegal ivory increasing and poaching on the rise, Africa’s elephant population has been reduced to what some estimates claim to be one tenth of their population from the early 20th century.
After the recent death of Satao II, Africa’s oldest and largest elephant, in March, passions among wildlife preservation units have been heightened, with many advocates speaking out on stopping the illegal ivory trade.
Satao II, named after another gargantuan elephant who was killed in March 2014, was one of a group of “big tuskers” named for their long tusks that nearly scrape the ground. Big tuskers are highly beloved by visitors to Tsavo national park, and are also highly coveted by poachers looking to export and sell their ivory tusks to high bidding clients, mostly in mainland China. Satao II was shot with a poisoned arrow–luckily, his carcass was found by the Kenyan Wildlife Service before the poachers could obtain the massive elephant’s ivory tusks.
In response to newfound attention being drawn to the illegal ivory trade after the 2016 documentary “The Ivory Game,” ivory laws were tightened worldwide. Even China, where ivory prices can reach $1,100 (£850) per kilogram, announced its plans for a complete ban on ivory trade by the end of 2017.
The documentary stated that if the rapid decline of the elephant population persists, African elephants could become extinct within 15 years.
In preparation for a ban on modern-day ivory sales in 2016, UK Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom stated, “Elephants are some of our world’s most iconic animals and it will take truly global action to stop the insidious criminals who selfishly prosper from the ivory trade,” also adding “This ban will send the message that the ivory trade is a thing of the past. I hope it increases pressure on other nations to implement bans and save our elephants before they disappear.”
Elephants are generally understood to be intelligent and social creatures, with complex brain structure and family ties. The ivory bans provide a promising outlook for preserving their future populations.
But still, many experts warn that the bans will not stop ivory from being illegally poached and sold on the black market. With the new regulations, ivory has become even rarer and more expensive. Seen as a status symbol for the Chinese, high bidders could increase their demand for the product, providing even more alluring offers to potential poachers in Africa.