Michael McCarty writes in the Independent: All around the world, wildlife and habitats are under threat: forests are being cut down, seas are being polluted, fish stocks are plummeting, seabirds and dolphins are vanishing, and the great mammals such as India's tigers and Africa's rhinoceroses and elephants are falling to poachers
Michael McCarty writes in the Independent:
All around the world, wildlife and habitats are under threat: forests are being cut down, seas are being polluted, fish stocks are plummeting, seabirds and dolphins are vanishing, and the great mammals such as India's tigers and Africa's rhinoceroses and elephants are falling to poachers. Can this miserable process ever be stopped? Twenty years ago this year, it briefly seemed so, for the world community came together in Lausanne to ban the ivory trade and so halt the desperate elephant slaughter of the 1970s and 80s. But the ban was undermined, firstly by a Robert Mugabe-inspired auction of "legal" ivory in 1997 and then again by a similar but much larger sale late last year. Conservationists warned of what would happen if the sale went ahead – that if you give a boost to the "legal" trade, you are simply enhancing the opportunity for illegal, poached ivory to be laundered into it. And if you give the trade the biggest boost possible, by opening up the world's largest ivory market, China, that consequence is even more assured. Despite the warnings, UN member states, including Britain, voted to allow the sale and to allow China to take part, despite China's abysmal record of policing its own ivory industry. Now, three months later, the results are becoming apparent: Kenyan wildlife officials say there has been an unprecedented rise in elephant poaching and are linking it directly to the auctions. It is clear that only if there is no ivory trade at all (the original intention of those who banned it in 1989) will the African elephant ultimately be safe. All the sophistry in the world about how legal sales can be tightly controlled – including from the World Wide Fund for Nature – will not stop the slaughter. Last year's decision was lamentable, and the British government should be ashamed for being a party to it.
Legal Ivory sale linked to poaching surge across Kenya's huge Tsavo National Park
Chinese demand and financial crisis cause surge in Kenya elephant poaching
A combination of the global economic crisis and soaring Chinese demand for ivory has prompted a "dramatic and alarming" surge in elephant poaching in Kenya.
By Mike Pflanz in Amboseli National Park Five elephants have already been killed this year in Tsavo National Park, site of some of the worst poaching during the 1970s and 1980s, when hundreds of thousands of the animals died.
At least one more large bull was killed in January and four others injured close to Amboseli National Park, famous for its images of huge herds grazing beneath snow-capped Mt Kilimanjaro.
"This is something we have not seen for a very long time, if at all," said Patrick Omondi, elephant coordinator for the Kenya Wildlife Service.
The fresh demand for raw tusks was being driven by an international agreement last year to allow a "one-off sale" of stockpiled ivory from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to Japan and China, Mr Omondi said.
"We have to say that what we warned would happen is happening, that this legal sale has restarted the demand for ivory, and illegal poachers and smugglers are now happily back in business to fulfil that demand," he said.
The number of elephant carcases found with their ivory removed jumped from 48 in 2007 to 98 in 2008.
Three Chinese construction teams are rebuilding key roads close to both Amboseli and Tsavo, and in neighbouring Tanzania, where much of the ivory is being smuggled.
"Wherever we see the Chinese coming to work in Africa, whether it is here in Kenya, in Zimbabwe, in Congo, we see an increase in poaching," said Mr Omondi.
The global financial crisis threatens to make the situation worse.
The numbers of visitors to Kenya's safari parks is plummeting, robbing many poor Kenyans of a livelihood drawn from selling souvenirs to tourists or working in game lodges.
At the same time, the price for raw ivory has jumped from £15 to £25 per kilo, meaning a poacher can earn up to £1,500 for two tusks from one elephant.
More than half of the dead elephants found in 2008 close to the park had their tusks removed, something which has not happened since the mass slaughter of 30 years ago, according to the Amboseli Trust for Elephants.
"This is the first time ivory has been stolen from carcases in Amboseli for many years," the charity said in a statement on its website.
"What is now occurring is dramatically and alarmingly different."
Local farmers have occasionally killed problem elephants which raided their fields, but in the past have not stolen the ivory. The animals are also now being killed with poisoned arrows which cause a lingering and painful death.
Slaughter of the elephants: Legal ivory sale linked to poaching surge across kenya's huge Tsavo National Park
Slaughter of the elephants: Legal ivory sale linked to poaching surge across Kenya's huge Tsavo National Park