23.02.2009 - 23.02.2009 22 °C
China’s booming economy is still fuelling the black market trade in elephant tusks and rhino horn. When the ban on the ivory trade was implemented in the 80’s, 1kg of top quality ivory sold for US$ 100 and in 2006 it sold for US$ 750. The UN continue to support the ivory ban although a one off agreement in 2007 allowed a one off sale of government stock piles in SA, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe allowing local communities to benefit from ivory sales in regions where elephant numbers were rising.
Chobe is home to 150,000 elephants! 3 times more than the park can reasonably support. The park has been granted approval to cull 50,000 over the next few years, a sad but very real reality. If the animals are not culled they will destroy so much of the park that other species (plant and animal) start to suffer. Entire herds have to be wiped out at once and each heard is carefully selected and humanely shot by the National Park rangers employed to protect them. The ivory will not be sold but instead stockpiled by the government. This raises the immotive question of whether it should be sold to the international market? If not, will elephants continue to be killed for their tusks in areas of Africa that already have a dwindling population?
The tusks of an elephant are like teeth and it would be impossible to remove them without killing the host animal. Rhino’s on the other hand are like nails and can be cut off. They grow back approximately 4cm a year and in a bid to protect the Rhino, park rangers at Motobo NP in Zim told us they made a proposal to harvest the horn. The process takes less than a few minutes to dart the animal, saw the horn and administer an antidote and it could potentially be performed 4 times in an average Rhino lifetime. The money raised would be used to protect the species, creating Rhino reserves and ultimately saving them from extinction. But again, would supply increase demand thus fuelling the illegal trade.
Tough questions and conflicting opinions. After hearing the pros and cons, mainly put forward by conservationists dedicating their lives to protecting these animals, I still find it hard to make up my own mind. Maybe instead the answer is to eradicate the Eastern buyers!
Could you kill one of these, then hack off it's tusks?