Poachers kill even baby elephants, says expert


Janice Ponce de Leon, Gulf News

Date Published

Dubai: Imagine having your teeth pulled and turned into jewellery, or a billiard ball. But do not stop there; what if your children’s teeth are used for the same.

This is what is happening to tens of thousands of African elephants (Loxodonta Africana) both young and adults, in Central and West Africa.

Poachers slaughter elephants indiscriminately, often targeting one whole herd to get their tusks and sell it in the underworld of ivory trade to buyers in China and Thailand.

“The tusks of elephants are comparable to our teeth; they are our incisors. Poachers kill elephants that are even a few months old. If they kill the parents, the babies usually die because no care will be available,” Dr Elsayed Mohammad, regional director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare-Middle East and North Africa, told Gulf News.

While there is no known market for this “white gold” in the UAE, Dubai serves as a major transit point for processed and raw ivory from Africa to the Far East.

“In China and Japan, most of the ivory that is imported is smuggled to make stamps, and also made into tissue boxes, jewellery, billiard balls and other items. Some people use it as an investment. In some cultures ivory is considered a prestigious item when it’s hung on someone’s neck,” Dr Mohammad said.

Prestigious for the wearers but bloody and deadly for the elephants. Poachers first shoot the gentle giants. Once on the ground, poachers carve out the tusks whose bottom third is embedded within the skull of the animal. Then, they are left to bleed out and die.

According to the UN report, Elephants in the Dust, there has been an increase in elephant poaching over the last seven years across all African sub-regions.

The year 2011, and probably also 2012, saw an all-time high in poaching, killing 17,000 elephants in these sites alone.

Between 419,000 and 650,000 elephants are left in the wild, mainly found in Southern and Eastern Africa. But the killings outnumber the elephants’ population rate.