Saving Elephants and Their Ivory

The elephant in Africa faces the danger that is serious due to poaching. They are found in thirty-seven countries, and protection by conservationist for these magnificent creatures does not come cheap.

Budgets in Africa are tight, and their governments are struggling with greater priorities including funding education and health. Public sympathy at an international level for elephants is typically unpredictable, short-term, and usually does not translate into cash donations.

This is the reason why a number of African governments created a stockpile of ivory confiscated from elephants dying naturally or from poachers prior to the legal selling of ivory so they could use the funds to provide revenue to conservationists. The last occurrence was in 2008. However, many countries throughout Africa are still stockpiling ivory for future use. Countries, like China, for example, outside of Africa have a strong market for legally stockpiled and antique ivory.

Therefore, selling ivory provides reliable income streams for elephant conservationists. Outside of the country, however, this practice is heavily opposed. Lack of awareness is the driving factor due to the belief that many assume all ivory is collected from poachers. Others are uncomfortable with earning money from wildlife and are especially uneasy when it comes to animals such as elephants.

This was one of the driving factors promptings several countries to destroy their stockpiles of ivory last year with the hopes it would reduce poaching and discourage future trade. However, in contrast, South Africa, and Botswana, continue with their stockpile storing.

Conservation Corruption

There is, however, an issue that is more particular coming to light. Evidence shows corruption is involved in the trade. Park staff, politicians, and customs officials are being implicated for laundering poached ivory as the ivory that is legal. Conservationists believe this corruption can’t be fought and that the entire trade should be banned altogether.

This is an extraordinary step in the right direction, the exposure of examples of such corruption. Conservationists are typically nervous about making problems such as this public. However, alongside with other colleagues, it has been made clear that the ivory trade should not be singled out. There could be corruption throughout all areas of elephant conservation, and there is no evidence indicating exactly how the trade is indeed affected.

Elephant conservation that is successful is based upon law enforcement, the sharing of benefits with people who are local, and park management funding. Each aspect of this conservation can be impacted by embezzlement, cronyism, and bribery.

A study in 2010 illustrates how positively the national parks in Africa worked toward protecting the wildlife. In the countries that were more corrupt, the study showed animals were in a steady decline, including species considered lower profiles such as zebras and antelopes. This indicates that numbers of elephants would fall throughout these countries, independent of policy for international wildlife trade.

The good news, though, is corruption is can be a battle. The first step is to tackle is an issue, such as police bribery or national park embezzlement, one problem at a time. That way, the tasks are less daunting, and the problems become changeable.