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The elephant is prized for its money-making body parts and loved for its industrious capabilities. To many, though, the elephant is nothing more than a pest – a threat to crops and livestock. What does the future hold for this massive roamer of the Indian and African wilds.
Elephants play a natural role in maintaining the balance of nature. A moderate number in a confined region increase the richness of plant species. Elephants also open new grasslands, disperse seeds and reduce the incidence of the tsetse fly.
Too many elephants, however, can cause ecological damage. As a result conservationists regularly cull elephants in some confined regions. The real threat, however, comes from poachers. Estimates on the number of elephants killed by poachers each year range from 45,000 to 450,000. The number of African elephants remaining has consequently plummeted from many millions to something now in the order of 900,000.
The carnage being caused among the elephant population is fuelled by a $50 million a year trade in ivory. This, coupled with the easy availability of automatic weapons, have made the African elephant an easy target for the money hungry. Expensive ivory carvings that range from several feet high to the size of a thimble are in popular demand by those who can afford them. Not long ago, ivory was fetching three dollars per pound. Today that price is closer to fifty dollars per pound. In an average year, it is estimated that 2,300 elephants lose their lives to supply the 8.3 million dollars worth of ivory imported into the United States alone. In fact, the proceeds from the tusks of just one bull elephant can fetch about $8,000. Thousands more comes from the hide, eagerly sought to manufacture such things as briefcases and waste baskets. Even the legs and feet are used for such things as umbrella stands.
The poachers have become so insensitive to the consequences of their greed that they have been known to even poison the watering holes of elephants in order to expedite their carnage.
So, what can be done about the massive, wanton slaughter of this majestic beast? Well, it is up to the end consumer to put a halt to the demand for the exotic products that come from elephants. When tempted by an elephant skin brief case or an ivory carving we must force ourselves to think of the beautiful wild elephant, writhing in the dust and fighting against having his tusk cut off while he is still alive. All of this just to satisfy our whim to own something different.
Yes, you and I can save the elephant. We simply have to say no to anything that is produced from it’s body parts. If enough of us can do this, then the magnificently tusked, long eared giant of the forest may just stand a chance.