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In Johannesburg, a vehicle carrying a rhino sculpture led anti-poaching marchers while in London activists in elephant costumes called for an end to the ivory trade.
The demonstrations were part of what organizers called a “global march” for rhinos and elephants, whose populations have been severely reduced by criminal networks that sell rhino horn and elephant ivory for high prices, particularly in parts of Asia. The loosely knit coalition of conservationists also planned events in the United States this weekend.
Organizers say more than 35,000 elephants are being killed every year so their tusks can be carved into ivory trinkets. A rhino is slaughtered once every 8 hours for its horn. According to the organizers, the only hope for survival of these animals lies in an immediate end to the ivory and rhino horn trade both “legal” and “illegal”, so they can have the chance to recover from decades of mass slaughter.
Organizers want governments to focus more on protecting wildlife, but acknowledge that major challenges such as poverty, state corruption and lax law enforcement facilitate the practice.
Ivory trade ban
Last month, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping of China agreed to implement nearly complete bans on the ivory trade.
“Why not a total ban?” asked Dex Kotze, a march organizer in Johannesburg.
Kotze told the Associated Press that conservationists in South Africa are divided between those, including himself, who oppose proposals to allow a regulated trade in rhino horn, and those who say controlled trade could drive criminals out of poaching.
South Africa is reviewing the issue.