Earlier this week news broke about the death of a famous elephant who was killed by poachers for his tusks in Kenya. Satao, as he was known, was an icon at Tsavo East National Park who had tusks so long they almost reached the ground. Sadly, his magnificent tusks were what put him in danger.
His body was identified earlier this month by members of the Tsavo Trust and Kenya Wildlife Services after reports of a body came in. When they found him, his iconic tusks and most of his face were gone. The Tsavo Trust wrote in a heartbreaking obituary:
This magnificent elephant was widely known in Tsavo East National Park, where he was observed with awe by many thousands of Tsavo’s visitors over the years. No longer will Tsavo and Kenya benefit from his mighty presence. Satao was shot dead by poisoned arrow on 30th May 2014. The arrow had entered his left flank and he stood no chance of survival. We spotted his carcass on 2nd June but to avoid any potential false alarms, we first took pains to verify the carcass really was his. Today it is with enormous regret that we confirm there is no doubt that Satao is dead, killed by an ivory poacher’s poisoned arrow to feed the seemingly insatiable demand for ivory in far off countries. A great life lost so that someone far away can have a trinket on their mantelpiece.
Numbers published earlier this month by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) paint a stark picture for the future for elephants, like Satao, who continue to be slaughtered for their tusks. According to the latest report over 20,000 African elephants were killed across the continent last year alone.
While the market for elephant ivory, and rhino horns, is big in Asia, the U.S. is also contributing to the decline of these species. While international efforts are under way to crack down on poachers and wildlife trafficking, this week lawmakers in New York and New Jersey stepped up by passing bills that would ban the sale and trade in rhino horns and ivory, which leave them each racing to become the first in the nation to pass such a law.
“New Jersey has a chance to be a global leader in elephant and rhino conservation by ending the ivory and rhino horn trade and setting an example for other states and nations to follow with the swift signing of this bill,” said Senate Economic Growth Chairman Raymond Lesniak.
New York – which is believed to be the biggest importer of ivory into the U.S. – also just passed legislation of its own today. New York’s bill will ban the buying and selling of elephant ivory and rhino horns, with a few exceptions, and has also gone to the governor for a signature.
Lawmakers hope that banning the trade in ivory and rhino horns will not only cut off a a major port for wildlife traffickers, but will also help in the fight against terrorist organizations by eliminating a market for illegal products, in addition to helping push efforts to crack down on trafficking at the federal level.
Now wildlife advocates are urging both Governor Chris Christie and Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign these bills into law, and they’re getting support from some big names, including Merryl Streep, a New Jersey native, and Billy Joel, who both added their voices to those speaking out for elephants by urging swift passage of these bills.
Elly Pepper, Wildlife Advocate for the National Resources Defense Council said in a statement:
“The brutal and ongoing practice of slaughtering African elephants for their tusks may seem distant, but just recently we saw an ugly and vivid example of this practice as one of the world’s most recognized elephants was shot down in Kenya. New York State is the biggest market for ivory in the United States, which is the second-biggest market in the world. By making it harder for traffickers to sneak illegal ivory onto the market, the state is doing its part to ensure that the world’s remaining elephants are not massacred for trinkets and trophies.”
Photo credit: Thinkstock