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Ivory Sales Get the Go-Ahead - Naresh Kadyan OIPA

Offbeat  (tags: off-beat, news, ethics )

- 3652 days ago -
Press Release... for your information

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Past Member (0)
Thursday July 17, 2008, 12:11 am

Kathy W (299)
Thursday July 17, 2008, 2:10 am
Let them say what they will but I feel this is bad news for the elephants. I just don't know about people sometimes.... oh yeah, the almighty dollar...Thanks for sharing Naresh.

Past Member (0)
Thursday July 17, 2008, 7:04 am
One thing is sure, and that is that CITES which should have prevented the
demise of the elephant by controlling the trade has failed in its mandate.
Instead it has evolved into a political lobby bent on trade and the
endangered species have become mere pawns in a money game. In fact, in the
past CITES agents themselves orchestrated the laundering of illegal ivory
into a stockpile in Burundi, accepting bribes as a pay-off for the CITES
stamp. Now, more than ever, when the elephants are so very vulnerable, their
social family fabric torn to tatters, should the world **SAY NO TO IVORY"

Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E, DVMS, 1992 UNEP Global 500 Laureate

*By Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E.: 1992 UNEP Global 500 Laureate.


No animal triggers more heated debate within conservation circles than the
elephant, for no animal has greater impact on the environment or is more
"human" emotionally. Elephants can change the face of the landscape enacting
their allotted "recycling" role and they share with us humans many emotional
traits. Theirs is a parallel lifespan, the same rate of development, a sense
of family and death, loyalties and friendships forged over the years that
span a lifetime and a memory that probably far surpasses our own. They also
have additional attributes such as "instinct", that mysterious genetic
knowledge crucial to survival; the ability to communicate over distance with
low frequency infra-sound hidden to human ears, and, like many other
animals, powers of telepathy. Hence, the question of how best to "manage"
these highly sophisticated and sensitive pachyderms inevitably evokes heated

*Elephants and Ivory:-* Unhappily, the ivory of their huge "incisors" has
commercial and mystical significance, particularly in the Far East. In
Japan, it is used for signature seals known as "hanks" and in many other
Far Eastern countries such as China the ancient art of carving is an
important industry with skills handed down over generations from father to
son. It is the demand in the East for an ivory hanka, or in the West for an
ivory trinket, that has injected the commercial element into ivory and it is
the commercial trade that now threatens the survival of the largest land
mammal on earth. All who buy ivory have blood on their hands, for it has
cost an elephant its life and that of all its dependent young. It has also
wrought immeasurable psychological suffering to many others who were friends
and loved ones.

Elephants need S P A C E and space is a commodity that is fast becoming
scarce due to human expansion. Ancient migration routes have been cut and
elephants driven into their last refuges, often too small to be viable in
the long-term, or positioned in marginal land where survival hinges on the
variables of rainfall.

Meanwhile, conflicting messages from the elephant range States and different
conservation factions has bred confusion in the minds of the lay public and
since it is "people power" that will ultimately determine the course of
events, it is important that the complexities of the elephant story are
fully understood. Thirty years ago the elephant population of Africa stood
at a healthy 3 million. Today less than 250,000 remain with numbers poised
to decline further due to human pressures. Remnant elephant communities
isolated from one another and holed up in small refuge areas immediately
become "problem animals" every time they put a foot out, since they find
themselves in conflict with human interests. The price of this is a bullet.

Elephant society is comprised of bonded female units which stay together for
life (young bulls leave the natal family at puberty to apprentice themselves
to high ranking bulls in order to learn the codes of behavior that govern
bull society). The female unit is led by the oldest member of the family,
known as the Matriarch, and it is she who makes all the decisions for her
family. Hence, within the cow units, the misfortunes of one, affect, all,
making them particularly vulnerable. Elephant infants cannot survive without
milk for the first two years of life. Thereafter, ideally, a calf would
supplement its diet of vegetation with some milk from its mother for the
next three years until the arrival of the next baby, by which time it will
be 5 years old. It will reach puberty between the age of l0 and l5 years; be
a young adult at 20, in its prime in its thirties and forties, still strong
and healthy yet aging in its fifties, and old beyond the age of sixty.
Therefore, when a calf is orphaned younger than two, it is usually doomed,
for whilst the family will love and care for it as best they can, few cow
elephants with a calf at foot will have the lactating capacity to suckle
two; nor would a cow jeopardies her own calf by doing so. Occasionally, if
times are good, an old cow wise in the ways of motherhood will allow an
orphan to suckle if she has lost a baby, or has one not wholly milk
dependent, but such instances are rare. Deprived of milk, an orphaned infant
will weaken rapidly, fall behind the herd and then the Matriarch must
abandon it in the interests of the others whose survival is her
responsibility. Her decision is final.

The gestation period for an elephant is between 22 and 24 months. A young
cow can fall pregnant for the first time at puberty, so given optimum
conditions a female elephant could have her first calf at the age of l2 or
14, thereafter producing one baby every five years into her sixties.
However, conditions are seldom optimal for elephants these days. Most
populations are under stress which inhibits conception; many are subjected
to intense human intrusion through mass tourism and scientific monitoring;
droughts are commonplace in marginal areas with both water and food scarce
and, of course, in Southern Africa economics dominate, in a flawed "if it
pays it stays" attitude, so periodic culls are accepted as necessary
management practice. There the meat of culled elephants is canned as pet
food, their hide turned into leather, fetching high prices in Japan, their
feet sold as curios and their young sold to Zoos and Circuses under the
"educational" loophole in the laws governing endangered species. What can be
educational in viewing a miserable and usually psychotic captive is
questionable, to say the least, particularly in this day and age of
sophisticated technology.

The scale of abuse attached to the live baby elephant trade was graphically
highlighted by what became known as the Tuli Debacle. Calves, some of which
were only two years old, were snatched from their living families by
Helicopter in the Tuli Block of Botswana and subsequently cruelly brutalized
in a South African so called "training" facility in preparation for sale to
China and the Far East. There they became the subject of a cruelty Court
Case which ended up generating such international outrage that some, at
least, were released into Marakele National Park where they subsequently
became absorbed into a wild herd. However, others less fortunate were
spirited away to Northern Transvaal , (no doubt to be "trained" further far
from the public spotlight) and yet others were clandestinely airlifted to
Zoos in Switzerland and Germany, there to face life imprisonment in
conditions that are far from suitable for an elephant. (Pressure is being
exerted to try and get these wild caught captives returned back to where
they belong). Another report from Tanzania told of young elephants being
isolated from the herd and chased by Land rovers until exhausted, then being
netted and dragged hundreds of meters to a waiting transporter. (Needless to
say, none of these captives survived). It is known that the live animal
trade also acts as a convenient cover and conduit for illegal narcotics and

The demand for young elephants in China is ongoing, because mortality is
high in a country where animal welfare is an alien concept and captive
elephants are subjected to untold cruelty and suffering. CITES (The
International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species) has always
conveniently overlooked what is, and is not, "a suitable destination" in
terms of elephants since few of the delegates are conversant with the needs,
and nature, of elephants. The trade is lucrative, the demand is there, and
money talks!

*Poaching and CITES:-* In the l970's and 80's poaching escalated to such an
extent that public outcry forced the International Community to take action.
North of the Zambezi, entire populations of elephants faced annihilation;
security within the Parks impacted negatively on tourism, (the mainstay of
many African economies), and the situation was desperate. Finally, in *l989,
* CITES, which meets every two years to discuss trade in threatened and
endangered species, was forced to impose an International Ban on the sale of
all ivory. Elephants were placed on the * fully protected Appendix I listing,
* the price of ivory fell sharply and with it the incentive to poach. In
short, the elephants won a reprieve just in time throughout most of Africa
and some countries such as Kenya and Zambia went so far as to burn their
ivory stocks in a gesture of commitment and goodwill.

However, others further South and some further North in possession of
illegal stockpiles, chose to hoard it, and immediately began to orchestrate
a cunning P.R. campaign to be allowed to sell it, despite the fact that a
further l0,000 elephants were estimated to have perished when Hong Kong was
allowed to sell its stockpile immediately after the ban was imposed. This
should have been a warning heeded but commercial interests often cloud good

The International Ivory Ban held for the next 8 years and for the first time
ever poaching was brought under control. Furthermore, the in-house
corruption that had crept into most wildlife authorities could be addressed.
Yet, eight years is time enough only for just two generations of elephants
to be born to replace the holocaust of the previous two decades and
certainly not time enough to heal the fragile fabric of elephant society
which had been severely disrupted. Still the pressure mounted from the
Southern Africans with talk of "over population", "rampaging elephants"
spilling out of protected areas to conflict with human interests, and the
perennial cry that the dead must pay for the living. In this respect a quote
from Dr. Richard Leakey sums up the opinion of informed
conservationists:- *"Biodiversity cannot be given a price The point is
that species must stay,
so we must pay. National Parks are not larders to be plundered and
exploited." *One can be excused for thinking that perhaps we humans should
begin by addressing the negative impact our species has had on the planet
through cultivation, open-cast mining, industrial pollution, river
contamination, forest felling and other facets of mismanagement! The damage
done to the planet by homo sapiens exceeds that of all others.

*In June l997,* another CITES Convention was convened in *Harare,
Zimbabwe,*and amidst a great deal of political maneuvering, the Ivory
Ban that had
held for the past eight years was overturned, and overturned in an unethical
way through a second secret ballot. This over-rode the first vote in favor
of the elephants, because the European Union chose to abstain, which cost
the elephants dearly. In so doing, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana finally
won the right for a one-off sale of their ivory stockpiles to Japan.
Shamefully, this time, Animal Welfare Organizations there to speak for the
animals and provide some semblance of "conscience" within a trade oriented
forum, were denied even a voice, despite the fact that it is they who are
best equipped to furnish the usually ill informed delegates with first hand
information on conservation issues. Even the report of the scientific "Panel
of Experts" which questioned the poaching figures submitted by Zimbabwe,
fell on deaf ears. In a nutshell, the l997 CITES Conference of the Parties
will go down in history as a disgraceful showing of acrimony, strong arm
tactics, and deviousness, besides being a mega conservation blunder.
Nevertheless, *the South African population of elephants remained on
Appendix I* and that, at least, was some consolation.

Immediately, the message was out - elephants were up for grabs again.
Illegal ivory could again be "laundered" into the legal system; poaching
escalated, as did the stockpiling of illegal ivory, and this at a time when
the elephant populations had barely recovered from the previous onslaught.
Furthermore, many African range States were in a worsening state of
political chaos with no hope of adequate law enforcement; automatic weapons
were easily procurable and many wildlife authorities were impoverished and
riddled with corruption. More sinister still, there were those that embarked
on a deliberate strategy of covering up poaching incidents either to
disguise their own shortcomings or because they had vested interests in the
illegal trade. *In April 2000,* The CITES Conference of the Parties met yet
again, this time in *Nairobi, Kenya,* amidst conflicting and confused
reports about whether, in fact, poaching for ivory was responsible for the
further demise of elephants, or whether, in fact, there had been a reduction
in numbers. The CITES Secretariat was quite openly biased in favor of the
Southern African pro-trade lobby and Kenya and India found themselves alone
in admitting a serious escalation in poaching and pressing for the fully
protected Appendix I listing to be reinstated. Other range States, known to
have been under poaching pressure, saw fit to again conceal the facts for
the same reasons as before; yet others were either "bought" or intimidated
and in the end a compromise emerged – a two year moratorium on the sale of *
all* ivory in exchange for the *down listing to Appendix II of the South
African population,* thereby sanctioning the trade in all elephant
by-products, except ivory, but *including live elephants.* Yet again, the
thorny question of what is, and what is not, a* suitable *destination failed
to be adequately defined. Worse still, within just a month or two, Zimbabwe
deliberately flouted the Convention's ruling and went ahead with the sale of
a large quantity of ivory to China! Nor is there any doubt that in two
years' time, the pressure to open the Ivory Trade will be even greater, so
the The Millennium Cites gathering will go down in history as being a no-win
situation yet again for the elephants. It would seem that only when the
Southern African populations are threatened with extinction will the
International Community respond by placing all ivory off limits forever,
since wealthy Southern Africa has more to offer the world in terms of trade
than other African range States.*Culling as a Management Option:-* The only
practical way of "culling" elephant herds is to gun down entire family
groups, first having immobilized the Matriarch from a helicopter so that the
family cluster around her, confused and rudderless. The drug commonly used
is s choline, banned for use on humans, since it collapses the muscles
causing total paralysis, yet leaves the victim fully conscious. An
anesthetic would, of course, be far more humane, but it would contaminate
the meat and detract from its commercial value. Yet, no-one can deny that an
elephant cull is anything short of a brutal massacre that sickens even the
most seasoned men detailed to undertake this terrible task as part of their
conservation duties.

Significant, however, is the fact that artificial culling is undoubtedly
seriously flawed. With all age groups within the female herds still intact,
and pressure off the land by the removal of some, the breeding rate
inevitably rises. Culling therefore has to be ongoing and the problem of
"too many elephants" is never truly solved, serving, of course, the
interests of the commercial trade. But, culling as practised in Southern
Africa is fundamentally flawed for another very important reason,
expediently overlooked. It deprives Nature of evolution's most potent
genetic tool - *Natural Selection* - something that can never be duplicated
by man. The survival of the fittest ensures the strength of the genetic core
of wild populations so that only the best genes perpetuate. Natural
Selection is the powerhouse of evolution, crucial to healthy stock, and
vital for adaptation in an ever changing habitat, for Nature is
*never*static; it is a dynamic and volatile force with evolution
constantly at
work. The term "Conservation" has been defined thus by one of the world's
most eminent ecologists, the late Sir Frank Fraser Darling:- *"Maintenance
of the Energy flux is conservation – reduction of it is the opposite to

No-one can argue that the removal of large numbers of elephant from the
environment for commercial purposes, is anything other than a reduction of
the energy flux and as such contrary to the fundamentals of conservation.
Neither should the contribution of the dead to the wellbeing of the living
be overlooked. A dead elephant feeds a great many predators for a long time,
and the recycling of its remains back into the environment returns nutrients
to the soil from whence they sprung, contributing to fertility. Even the
tail hairs of a dead elephant serve a useful function, plucked out by the
birds for nests; bones are chewed and scattered by predators, gnawed by
rodents or weathered back into the soil by the elements. A study done in
Tsavo recorded 84,700 insects in just 3 kilos of elephant dung, so ponder
for a moment the forces at work to recycle what once was a living elephant.
When nothing is removed from the habitat, nothing is lost, and the
environment is the richer for it.

*The Tsavo Example:-* The thorny issue of what to do about an over
population of elephants in a confined area continues to simmer. Attempts at
birth control through pill implants have proved problematical and are still
in the experimental stage. Who, in fact, is qualified to determine how many
is too many, when there are too many, and which ones should die? Only Nature
can do this, and the example is there within Kenya's Tsavo National Park,
the only Park in Africa where natural processes and vegetation's progression
has been allowed to proceed to a natural conclusion devoid of human
intervention. In Tsavo elephant/vegetation's cyclical patterns have been
carefully monitored over time and a natural elephant die-off that took place
in the early seventies has been scientifically documented. There man stood
aside to look and learn rather than to crash in clumsily where angels feared
to tread.

The argument most commonly used to justify the large-scale killing of
elephant herds is that they destroy the habitat, threatening the survival of
other life forms. But, where is the evidence to support this premise? In
Tsavo what at one point in time appeared to be wholesale "destruction" of
the woody plant community, turned out to be something quite different. Nor
did the predicted demise of many species due to the activity of elephants
occur - rather the reverse; the habitat was improved and became more
productive benefiting biodiversity. There the ability of Nature to adjust
elephant numbers was illustrated and the reason for the female bonding
within elephant society also became clear. Added to this, human failings
such as corruption and greed illustrated the pitfalls of "commercial
utilization" of wild free ranging populations, where Nature imposes its own
controls through predation, disease, and food and water availability, no
provision allowed in the system for human predation on a commercial scale.

It so happened that Naturalists, as opposed to Scientists, were at the
wildlife helm at that point in time. They viewed things not in isolation,
but as a whole, since Naturalists do not specialise but consider the big
picture. Sympathetic handling of wild populations and compassion for the
orphaned and injured is not seen as a weakness but rather an essential
element of sensitive conservation husbandry. A Naturalist has the advantage
of vision unblinkered by scientific constraints and an intrinsic passion for
wild unspoilt places where Nature and natural processes rule supreme, and
where wild animals enjoy *a quality of life* untroubled by intrusive
management. Naturalists understand that Nature holds the answers to many
puzzles and that humans should take the time to look and learn rather than
blunder in where angels fear to tread. Nature is complex and every living
organism, whether large or small, is intertwined contributing, each in its
own way, to the wellbeing of the whole. It has the ability to best correct
imbalances caused by artificial boundaries with species adapting to change,
and finding their own optimum levels within habitat conditions prevailing at
the time. What can exist naturally within artificial boundaries will, and
what can't, wont, such limitations being preferable to artificially
manipulated situations that impact negatively both on quality of life and
the sense of wilderness, quite apart from usually being too costly for Third
World resources. Above all, Naturalists bow to the significance of natural
selection, viewing it as a vital and necessary process that contributes to
the wellbeing of the species. After all, no one knows better than Nature as
to who should live and who should die.when the time comes. In other words,
when it comes to intrusive management, less is always best.

Tsavo National Park is 8,000 sq. miles in extent. It was established in
l948, not because of its wealth of wildlife, but simply because it was a
large chunk of country not suitable for either pastoral or agricultural
purposes - an inhospitable arid thirst land with an average annual rainfall
of between just l0 and and 20 inches; its barren wastes tsetse infested
"commiphora" scrub served by only two permanent rivers; the malarial
parasite and tsetse borne trypanosomiasis a deterrent to both humans and
domestic livestock. Grasses were sparse or absent altogether beneath the
dense entanglement of barbed scrub and sanseveria that dominated at that
time, and as a result water runoff during the wet seasons produced flash
flooding in sand lug gas that lay dry for the rest of the year. Then, the
habitat favored the browsing species such as elephant, and black rhino,
both of which were present in very large numbers, as were dikdik, lesser
kudu and gerenuk. Grazers were few and sparse, but diverse nevertheless.
However, the viewing of anything was severely restricted due to the
impenetrable wall of bush that gave way reluctantly to every trail.

By fortunate geographical accident, however, the Park just happened to hold
a greater variety of different species than any other Park in the world, for
there the northern and southern forms of fauna just happened to meet,
doubling up on common species. It harbored Peters Gazelle as well as the
Common Grant, the Somali ostrich along with the Masai, reticulated forms of
giraffe merging into obvious Masai patterning, and, prior to the great
rinderpest epidemic of the late l800's which decimated the ungulates,
Greater kudu as well as the more common lesser variety and even Sable.

In l948 when the Park first came into being, human pressure had yet to
manifest itself along the boundaries, so elephants roamed an ecosystem of
l6,000 square miles, twice the size of the Park itself. By the late l960's,
however, human expansion and good Park protection brought most of the 45,000
elephants of the ecosystem within the Park's borders, and their impact on
the environment became glaringly evident. Damage to the woodland scrub trees
at a glance did appear catastrophic, but as the picture unfolded, it became
clear that what was first seen as "destruction" was, in fact, no more than a
rather untidy phase of a perfectly natural cycle in which scrub land was
being recycled to make way for a grassland regime which would benefit the
grazers hitherto suppressed. Only the elephant can trigger such change.

Inevitably, there was talk of "culling", but ivory related corruption
endemic within the higher echelons of Government called for caution.
Furthermore, it had taken the Park authorities the previous two decades to
control the illegal poaching of elephants within the Park boundaries by a
traditional elephant hunting tribe known as the Waliangulu who would surely
have difficulty rationalizing why the authorities had the right to slaughter
elephants when they had been prevented from doing so. Equally as important
was the fact that Kenya was a leader in the psychological aspect of wild
animals, and particularly of elephants, so the humane angle was a major
consideration. That elephants are essentially "human" in emotion was already
known as early as the fifties, (and has recently been scientifically proved
through a study of the components of both human and elephant breast milk,
both of which contain complex olichosacharides that promote complex brain
formation). Like us, elephants "bury" their dead, covering a body with
sticks and leaves; they grieve and mourn a lost loved one as deeply as any
human, returning to the remains to pay their respects periodically, and for
years afterwards. Like us, elephants remember - in fact, they never forget,
so they are constantly in touch with friends and loved ones throughout their

As humans, we understand the trauma of death, and most of us are familiar
with grief. So, consider the grief wrought amongst elephants subjected to an
annual "cull"; the trauma of forever being stalked by the threat of death,
of annually mourning friends and family and never knowing who is next. It is
unacceptable to believe that only humans are worthy of compassion or that
the world exists simply for the benefit of mankind. We need a more holistic
approach to Nature and the other creatures that have evolved in tandem with
us on this planet, all of which fulfill a specific function within the

Of course, The Wardens of the time had the benefit of the South African
example as well. They knew that with commercial culling inevitably come
Tanning and Meat Processing plants employing a work force that cannot easily
be dismissed; contracts and deadlines that have to be met and policy
decisions influenced by economics rather than environmental considerations,
not to mention the danger posed to visitors by traumatized and wounded
animals too fearful to stand for a photograph. Then there is the perennial
problem of corruption and greed creeping into the equation with disastrous

Fortunately, however, in Tsavo, the controversial "Elephant Debate" was
overtaken by events in l970 when a worse than usual drought hit the Park and
Nature stepped in to sort things out ahead of man. Subjected to stress due
to the shortage of food, natural adjustment of the birth rate began to
inhibit recruitment. The cows simply did not conceive. Furthermore, the
oldest females of the cow units, the Matriarchs, were the first to feel the
affects of malnutrition and as strength ebbed, they took the female family
within easy reach of permanent water. There conditions during drought
conditions are inevitably harsher, affecting all members of the female herd.
Then came the quiet mass die-off of selected female age groups throughout
the entire population - a one-off event that saw the loss of almost 9,000
mainly female elephants of specific age groups. This created the generation
gaps necessary to relieve the pressure on the land, immediately plunging the
elephant population into a long slow decline which relieved the pressure on
the land and made way for the regeneration of a new generation of trees.
These had, of course, been planted by the elephants themselves in their long
range wanderings, deposited far and wide in their dung. The reason that
Nature has ordained that female elephants stay bonded together for life now
becomes obvious, for in order to put a population into decline, it is the
breeding females that must be targeted.

It was all over within three months, at no cost, and with no disruption to
other wild communities - no profiteering - just a cataclysmic natural
tragedy soon obscured by the mists of time. Only the ivory was removed from
the carcasses. In a perfect world this too should have remained where it
was, to be recycled back from whence it came. The removal of females from
the Tsavo population set the stage for the elephants to achieve a natural
equilibrium with the food resource now available to them, bearing in mind
that the population had been swelled by unnatural immigration induced by
human expansion.

This now poses a question. Surely, in this day and age of sophistication, it
must be possible to repeat a natural die-off artificially, using anesthesia
rather than s choline and to remove a selected number of females of selected
age groups, as did Nature? A natural die off has to take place, at the most,
only once in an elephant's lifetime and this surely must be more humane than
an annual cull. Could mankind not sacrifice the meat once in an elephant's
lifetime in the interests of good conservation, particularly as there is an
over-abundance of domestic livestock badly in need of a cull for
environmental reasons. These are the issues that Science should be
addressing and especially now that the lay public are better informed about
the nature of elephants. Inhumane handling of elephants, and indeed all
animals, is becoming anathema.

Elephants are essentially fragile; huge eating machines that require not
only a great quantity of vegetation in a day, but also a wide selection of
different plants including the bark of trees to provide the trace elements
and minerals essential for such a large frame. They are delicate in infancy
and by design have been equipped with a surprisingly inefficient digestive
system, passing 6% protein in their dung. Once denied the essentials in
their diet, they weaken rapidly, which forces them to retreat to sources of
permanent water where conditions are inevitably worse. Before all others,
they are the first to feel the affects of malnutrition, inducing a condition
known as *ketosis, *which is a painless lethargy caused by lowered blood
sugar levels, even when there is food in the stomach. What that food lacks,
however, is the quantity and nutritional components needed to maintain
strength. The elephants become comatose, spending a lot of time asleep,
devoid of energy to move far from water. Inevitably, one day, they simply
cannot get up and then the end comes quickly and quietly. They die
surrounded by their loved ones who bring comfort and love right up until the
end, and who then have time to mourn as they "bury" their dead, comforting
each other in their bereavement. (It is this natural die-off that in the
past gave rise to the legendary myth of "the elephants' graveyard" when the
bones of many elephants were found near sources of permanent water).

Hot on the heels of the Tsavo die-off came the rampant poaching of the
seventies and eighties, and this pushed the population rapidly below the
optimum downward swing of the natural vegetation's seesaw, foreshortening
the grassland cycle. This then is the only unnatural event in Tsavo, and one
that could impact negatively on the grazers in the long-term since they may
not be afforded the time they need to proliferate to the point when they can
withstand another woodland cycle. The woodlands are regenerating, and
regenerating rapidly, so Tsavo will revert to what it was like when the Park
was first proclaimed – dense scrub thicket. Thus, within just l5 years,
Tsavo's once over population of elephants became an under population
threatened with annihilation. The poaching was now fueled by in-house greed
and corruption forcing the elephants to abandon huge swathes of the Park,
too fearful to return for the next 30 years. Ironically they sought shelter
around human habitation where the AK 47 and G3 wielding killers could not
easily get at them, but this created a different set of problems – that of
the so-called "problem elephants". Only the imposition of the Ivory Ban in
l989 brought a reprieve and only now, thirty years later, are the elephants
beginning to venture back into the interior of the Park.

*The role of Elephants * is a very crucial one, crucial to the survival of
many other species both large and small. They are Nature's Bulldozers, their
most important function that of recycling the nutrients and trace elements
locked in wood, drawn up out of soil by tree roots over decades. Only when
the trees themselves are felled are these rare earths released back into the
environment to become available to other plant and animal life less well
equipped. No other animal can, for instance, recycle the precious minerals
of the giant Baobab, a long lived colossus extremely rich in calcium and
trace elements. The debris of trees felled by elephants shield pioneer
grasses and shrubs from trampling; deep rooted perennial grasses follow, the
grazers proliferate and browsers decline. Natural selection ensures that the
gene pool is honed and that the strongest survive in readiness for another
thicket phase as elephant numbers fall. Then, if the elephants can be
adequately protected, their numbers will rise again in tandem with the
regeneration of the woodlands, and this then is the natural order of events
- a cyclical vegetation's seesaw of woodland to grassland and back to
woodland inextricably intertwined with elephant numbers.

It is the elephants who create the trails that benefit all others, roads
that not only select the best alignment over difficult terrain, but also
unerringly point the way to water, acting as conduits for run-off rainwater
directing it to the waterholes and ensuring that they fill more surely and
rapidly. Elephants create the waterholes in the first place and enlarge them
every time they bathe, carrying away copious quantities of mud plastered on
their huge bodies. The puddling action of their giant feet seals the bottom
against seepage, so that water lasts longer in the dry seasons benefiting
all life and relieving feeding pressures near permanent sources. Elephants
also have the ability to expose hidden subsurface supplies buried deep
beneath the sands of the dry riverbeds, making it accessible to others by
tunneling at an angle with their trunks. Their sheer weight compresses the
sand bringing water closer to the surface as dozens of elephants patiently
await their turn to drink from these holes. Were the elephants not there to
fulfill this function, all water dependent species would not be able to exist
in such places - a case in point being the Tiva river in Tsavo, which
literally died faunally when the elephants left.

Elephants provide in other ways too, breaking down branches to bring browse
to a lower level, thereby making it accessible to the many smaller creatures
that share their world. By felling trees they create the space that allows
seedlings to take root and grow uninhibited by their parents' shadow. The
very rapid metabolism of an elephant ensures copious quantities of dung, the
very life support for the largest scarabs, who roll it into balls and bury
it deep below the ground, thereby enriching the soil. The dung also attracts
the insects that nourish a host of insectivorous birds, mammals and reptiles
and because elephants have such an inefficient digestive system, it is
particularly rich.

*The Future:-* Tsavo provides an example of how Nature controls elephant
populations. Whilst the natural die- off of elephant and the build-up to it
has been well documented, unfortunately, no in-depth study of the subsequent
sequence of events was undertaken, simply because gun brandishing poachers
proved a deterrent. However, records and photographic evidence does exist
within the Sheldrick Trust's Archives making a retrospective study feasible.

One thing is sure, and that is that CITES which should have prevented the
demise of the elephant by controlling the trade has failed in its mandate.
Instead it has evolved into a political lobby bent on trade and the
endangered species have become mere pawns in a money game. In fact, in the
past CITES agents themselves orchestrated the laundering of illegal ivory
into a stockpile in Burundi, accepting bribes as a pay-off for the CITES
stamp. Now, more than ever, when the elephants are so very vulnerable, their
social family fabric torn to tatters, should the world *SAY NO TO IVORY,* no
matter in what form. Each and every one of us can, and should, at least do
that. Every piece of ivory is a haunting memory of a once proud and majestic
animal, that should have lived three score years and ten; who has loved and
been loved, and was once a member of a close-knit family akin to our own;
but who has suffered and died in unspeakable agony to yield a tooth for a
trinket. Something so symbolic of death and suffering can never be

Joycey B (750)
Thursday July 17, 2008, 10:02 am
This should not be happening. It is so wrong. Noted with anger and disgust. Thanks Naresh.

Past Member (0)
Friday July 18, 2008, 7:15 am
China illegal ivory trade fight defended
Beijing | July 18, 2008 12:01:13 AM IST

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman rejected any criticism of his government's fight against illegal ivory trade.

Commenting on an NGO report critical of China's program, Liu Jianchao said it is unfair and twists facts, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Conservation groups have come out strongly against this week's decision by the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species approving the sale of African elephant ivory to China.

In its decision, the U.N. agency said China -- one of the largest importers of elephant ivory -- has dramatically improved its enforcement of ivory rules. The decision will allow China to bid on a stock of more than 100 tons of ivory obtained from culling and from elephants that had died of natural causes in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Conservation groups condemned the decision, saying it would only fuel demand and encourage poaching. They say African elephant populations have fallen to about 625,000 from 1.3 million a decade ago.

Liu said the Chinese government attaches great importance to the protection of wild animals, including elephants.

Past Member (0)
Friday July 18, 2008, 7:18 am
Ivory sales
Round the horn

Jul 17th 2008
From The Economist print edition
Campaigners’ fear for elephants, and their own credibility

BANNING almost all cross-border trade in ivory, as the United Nations did in 1989, doesn’t seem to have achieved its stated aim, that of ending a smuggling business worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Soon the world will be able to assess the effects of a move in the other direction: a decision to let China bid at a one-off auction of legal ivory from four African countries whose elephant populations have stabilised. Hitherto Japan is the only country to have been authorised to make legal bids.

After some hard talking by Chinese officials who say they have clamped down on the black market, and campaigning by environmental groups that disagree, the decision went China’s way at a meeting in Geneva of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), a lobby group, said this condemns “the world’s elephants to slaughter” and plays “Russian roulette” with a species whose numbers in some places, at least, are unknown but might be worryingly low. The campaigners’ line is that legal sales merely abet the illegal kind, especially when the black market is way beyond officialdom’s control.

Nobody can deny that China’s black market was rampant until recently. In a report to the UN leaked by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a campaigning group, this month, Chinese officials admitted that between 1991 and 2002 they had lost sight of 121 tonnes of ivory, the equivalent of the tusks from 11,000 elephants.

Is China observing the CITES rules now? A brief visit to China in 2007 by inspectors from the CITES secretariat suggested that things had improved: they said that ivory was becoming harder to find, though they came across a shop in the city of Xi’an with ivory carvings of dubious provenance. A bigger investigation was carried out by TRAFFIC, an independent British-based group that monitors wildlife trade. After studying 10,000 shops between 2006 and 2008, it reported a progressive decline in the availability of illegal ivory. This had coincided with greater police vigilance.

The idea that China is cleaning up its act got another boost in March, when over 750kg (1,650lb) of raw ivory was seized in Guangxi Province. As CITES notes, the penalties for illegal trading include life imprisonment and death. But the EIA, which uses undercover methods to probe the trade, says things are not as good as they seem; in 2007 its researchers found a roomful of illegal ivory, including an uncut tusk, for sale in the city of Dalian. Last month they made a small find in Gansu province.

A more interesting question is how the legal sales now in prospect will affect the black market. A fresh supply of legal ivory may depress the price, and reduce the incentive to poach. TRAFFIC notes that after a legal auction in 1999, the price fell; this led to a decline in poaching over five years. For doctrinaire types, who oppose all trade in ivory, the forthcoming sale is not just a challenge to endangered animals; it could be a threat to the credibility of their best-loved arguments.
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