Illegal Ivory Trade Leading to Extinction

Pop Quiz time! What is the largest living animal on land? If you guessed the great African elephant you're right! But did you know that those gentle beasts are also being poached to the point of being labeled as an endangered species? The ivory of these elephants' tusks can sell for more than $1,500 a pound on the black market, making it a very promising source of income.

Ivory is a very valuable item, especially in Asia. Countries like China will pay top dollar for ivory to make into different products ranging from jewelry to statues of enormous size. Statistics show criminal networks trafficked as much as 170 tons of ivory in the past year.The sad fact is that, if ivory wasn't in such high demand, then  nobody would be poaching these elephants for their tusks. Thus, they wouldn't be dying off.

It has been estimated that in the year of 2012 over 15,000 elephants were poached throughout the National Park in Africa. Since then, that number has sky rocketed to more than 4 or 5 elephants being poached everyday, and that is just based on the carcasses that have been recovered. The population of African elephants used to be around 1.3 million in 1979. That number has dropped to a staggering 434,000-684,000 in 2013.

The truly horrific part of this is the poaching itself. The poachers are relentless, they have even began having shoot outs with the African National Park guards. When they do manage to make a kill, the process of removing the tusks is truly gruesome. These tusks are imbedded deep into the skull of the elephants so, in order to remove them, poachers often hack away at the skull. They do this until the bones are cracked and crushed enough to remove the tusks and take off, leaving the carcass to rot in the African heat.

But what can we, as consumers do? How can we stop the illegal trade of ivory and the poaching of these truly wonderful creatures?  Many officials urge us to stop buying ivory products and to donate to organizations like CITES or WWF. Yet, will it be enough? Will we be able to save the elephants, or will future generations only know them by the pictures in their textbooks?