Time to step out of our ivory towers

First, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Not the birthday of Francie from Zootopia but the impending extinction of the majestic animal, elephant. The elephant is one of the largest mammals on earth. It was evident that elephants have unusual features, such as the long, off-white tusks on either side of their trunks. Sadly, these are also features putting them in danger.


The long tusks of elephants are beautifully grown on either side of the trunk. It was originally a weapon for the elephants to protect themselves against potential predators. How come the beautifully grown tusks are bringing elephants to extinction? Elephant tusks are unique, rare and bringing elephant danger as the hunter are targetting on their tusks. The elephants are slaughtered instead of simply being anaesthetized, partly for the safety of the hunter and partly because elephant tusks grow deeply into the elephants’ head. The size of the tusks is decreasing in the last decade due to the overhunting. Not only the size of the tusk is dropping, but the genes of the ‘big tooth’ are also becoming rarer. With the development of the ivory hunting, the big tusks and the elephant itself are extinct very soon!

 

Have you ever heard of people being murdered for their teeth? Probably not! It happened on the elephant, but why? Why the teeth?

 

The off-white tusks are called ivory, which is also known as the white gold. It was beautifully called the white gold by the value of ivory, with the cost of the ivory being proportional to the rareness of the ivory. The hunter targeting on ivory and they shoot the elephant to death.  Africa is the major supply of ivory, the amount of existing elephant is dropping rapidly every year due to the ivory trade. The high demand for ivory is causing conflicts in Africa. It is usually carved as decorations such as billiards balls, chopsticks and piano keys. In some cultures, ivory is a symbol of wealth and also a proof of having high social status.

Poachers kill about 20,000 elephants every year to meet the market’s demands, with the largest consumer base existing in Asia. With the significant amount of killing every year, elephants will become endangered in the next decade. You may ask what will happen after elephant extinction? There are over one-third of the plants rely on the elephant to distribute their seed and spread their species in the African forest. Elephants help to maintain the forest and the ecosystem of other species. The extinction of the elephant species are not only encouraging the genetic diversity, but it will also affect the distribution of species and the ecosystem. They help to maintain the balance to the ecosystem in the forest.


Ivory trading leading to the extinction of the elephant is an ongoing topic. People have noticed this issue; therefore, laws were set up to ensure the conservation of the elephant. The ivory trading market, store and ivory carving has shuttered. All government licenced ivory trading stores are closed in China. China and America agreed to the ivory ban, and the law will go on in 2016 and 2018 respectively. China is the country with the highest demand for ivory in the market. As other countries pledge to abide by the ivory ban and further enforce restrictions on trading, this is a small step closer to increasing the commitment to protecting the elephant on a global scale. Although there are still people sneaking around illegal trading and hunting for ivory, these action helps to reduce the amount of killing. We can also help to save the elephant by donating to the 96 elephants and stop wildlife crime. Together we can save the elephant and leave their tusks untouched.

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