News / Africa

    Saving African Elephants: The Global Debate

    Elephants gather at dusk to drink at a watering hole in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya, March 25, 2012.
    Elephants gather at dusk to drink at a watering hole in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya, March 25, 2012.
    Mary Alice Salinas
    Wildlife experts and conservationists say African elephants are under unprecedented attack. Organized gangs have turned wildlife ranges into war zones as they hunt for the creature’s prized ivory. The trend has raised questions about whether international efforts to protect them are helping or making the problem worse.

    African elephants splash in ponds of water deep inside the Dzanga Sangha Reserve in the Central African Republic.

    Andrea Turkalo, a scientist for the World Conservation Society, travels through the park, first by car, then on foot, hacking a path through the jungle with a machete.

    About 50 elephants mill about. The majestic and iconic creatures appear safe here, but Turkalo says the threat has never been greater. “It’s bad news everywhere. They’re being poached everywhere. And I think people have to realize that. That whole situation has changed," he said.

    But why has poaching for elephant ivory skyrocketed in recent years? The commodities have always been prized in Asian countries, where the appetite for them has also surged.

    This will be a central question during a March gathering of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES.

    CITES was formed more than 30 years ago to ensure that international trade does not threaten the survival of wild animals and plants.

    Nations voluntarily sign onto the convention. CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon says parties have legal obligations and if they do not comply with the convention they face possible suspension in the trade of some 35,000 species.

    “So it is very much a hard law international convention and in fact it stands out amongst all of the conventions dealing with the environment for the teeth that it has,” he said.

    Ivory that was confiscated in Singapore in 2002 and returned to Kenya was burned during the first African Elephant Law Enforcement Celebrations held on July 20, 2011 at Kenya Wildlife Services Field Training School at Manyani, Kenya. (Steve Njumbi / IFAW)Ivory that was confiscated in Singapore in 2002 and returned to Kenya was burned during the first African Elephant Law Enforcement Celebrations held on July 20, 2011 at Kenya Wildlife Services Field Training School at Manyani, Kenya. (Steve Njumbi / IFAW)
    x
    Ivory that was confiscated in Singapore in 2002 and returned to Kenya was burned during the first African Elephant Law Enforcement Celebrations held on July 20, 2011 at Kenya Wildlife Services Field Training School at Manyani, Kenya. (Steve Njumbi / IFAW)
    Ivory that was confiscated in Singapore in 2002 and returned to Kenya was burned during the first African Elephant Law Enforcement Celebrations held on July 20, 2011 at Kenya Wildlife Services Field Training School at Manyani, Kenya. (Steve Njumbi / IFAW)
    Stockpiles from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana were traded to Japan and China.

    176 parties have signed on. But some countries in sub-Saharan Africa blame CITES itself — at least in part — for the surge in elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade.

    CITES banned the trade in newly obtained ivory in 1989, but since then it has twice allowed African countries to legally trade ivory from elephants that died of natural causes.

    Debate

    Critics argued the so-called “one-off” sales wrongly sent a signal that it was legal to trade in ivory again and made it easier to launder illegal ivory with legal ivory. Opponents of the sales — like the Kenyan government — say this fueled demand and caught the attention of organized gangs that have set out to cash in.

    Authorities say the new, highly-sophisticated gangs are equipped with weapons of war and increasingly brazen as they hunt for ivory and rhino horns — now worth more than gold in the Asian black market.

    "If nothing is done in the coming CITES meeting to deal with the issues to enforcement and deal with the issues of demand, many countries in Africa will lose their entire elephants population,” says Patrick Omondi, head of Kenya’s wildlife management and conservation.

    Kenya has proposed that CITES place a moratorium on any more legal ivory trade until at least 2017.

    Legal sale

    Ivory seized by year, worldwide, from 2008 to 2012.Ivory seized by year, worldwide, from 2008 to 2012.
    x
    Ivory seized by year, worldwide, from 2008 to 2012.
    Ivory seized by year, worldwide, from 2008 to 2012.
    Tanzania, however, has asked CITES to allow it to sell 100 tons of legal ivory, arguing the government needs the money to fight well-financed and heavily-armed poachers.

    “We are experiencing some of the most defining moments in our conservation efforts because of the increased poaching,” says Lazaro Nyalandu, Tanzania’s deputy minister of natural resources and tourism.

    Nyalandu says whether or not previous legal sales caused the spike in poaching, his country needs the proceeds to better equip its game rangers.

    CITES Secretary-General Scanlon says the legal ivory sales were part of an “experiment” to see if a fresh supply would help drive down the cost and demand. He said statistics on the sales have been inconclusive.

    Out in the wild, conservationists like Turkalo believe it all has to do with more than protecting wildlife.

    "It’s trade and it’s about money and that’s the way the world works. And I think a lot of us are very naive in thinking that we can decide all these things at national meetings, international meetings,” he says.

    CITES is currently considering proposals by countries on both sides of the ivory-sale issue and will issue its recommendations in January.

    Listen to report on poaching by Mary Alice Salinas
    Listen to report on poaching by Mary Alice Salinasi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Conservationist
    November 27, 2012 10:02 PM
    More importantly owever what about the people in Africa?
    Zimbabwe, ring a bell?

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.