Say NO to Ivory Jewellery!

The US recently declared a comprehensive ban with immediate effect on import of ivory as a part of its new National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking which has touched an alarming level especially in South Africa.
A historic event took place last month in London where representatives of at least 50 countries along with the European Union and some multilateral environmental agencies had gathered for the ‘London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade’. The Summit signed a Declaration expressing its determination to wrestle this 20 billion-dollar global and illegal wildlife trade which leads to corruption and disruption of local economies and livelihoods, and robs communities of their natural capital and cultural heritage. Organized transcontinental crime syndicates are playing a cumulative role, and on some occasions proceeds from this heinous activity are being used to fund terrorist groups. This ultimately threatens national and regional security in some parts of the world.
Statistics revealed by the Summit are horrifying. According to an estimate, there were 1.3 million elephants in Africa in 1979, today only 500,000 have survived and out of which on an average 100 tuskers are being killed every day by poachers. There were 500,000 rhinoceroses in the beginning of the 20th century; today there are less than 30,000. Alarmingly now the poaching activities have skyrocketed. A recent study reveals some alarming facts that five countries in Central Africa have lost 65% of their elephant population between 2002 & 2011, with Gabon bearing the biggest losses. South Africa alone lost more than 1,000 rhinos to poachers in 2013 which is a 50% rise on the last year and up from just 13 in 2007.
The global ivory trade was banned under the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) in 1989. But with ivory prices reaching about $3,000 per kilo and rhino horns $60,000 per kilo along with an insatiable demand, the huge profits have tempted many to flout the law.
Apart from the US, many Asian countries are also craving for the wildlife goods. China, Vietnam and Indonesia are supposed to be the biggest markets where the artisans and craftsmen are known for their ability to transform ivory into complex and beautiful objects and even imbed it on gold jewellery. Major bulk of the illegal ivory is being smuggled from African sources, rather than from Asian elephants.
But recent investigations into the ivory trade in India and Myanmar have revealed the re-emergence of Asian ivory in the domestic markets. A 1997 TRAFFIC report specified that even seven years after the global trade in ivory was banned, illegal deals continued in the Far East, where South Korea and Taiwan (China) emerging as major markets.
Besides the demand for ivory, Asian elephants are also hunted for their meat and skin (leather) in some regions of Asia. Today, domestic ivory markets in Asia are the biggest threat to wild elephant populations than international trade in ivory.
India has already banned the ivory trade but it is still bearing the brunt of this illegal and criminal activity. Ivory mafias here target elephants in Odisha and other Southern states with advanced weapons and customized equipment. This needs immediate intervention. According to a report, the Forest Department here has very scanty information about the actual wildlife poaching and trade.
Mr. Biswajit Mohanty of The Wildlife Society of Odisha who has been recently awarded PhD on “Wildlife Poaching in Odisha” says, “Odisha has lost more than 250 tuskers over the last 10 years. Illegal ivory traders from Rajasthan, Delhi and Kolkatta regularly visit the state and contact local poaching gangs who in turn supply them ivory for making jewellery and other showpieces. In 2010, more than 15 elephants were poisoned or shot dead in Simlipal town for their tusks.”
The United Nations has declared 3rd March as ‘World Wildlife Day’. The signatories to the Summit declaration have agreed that ‘decisive and urgent action’ needs to be taken. Apart from pledging to introduce wide-ranging practical initiatives, several key Summit participants have also committed to provide additional resources, including an amount of £10 million from the UK.
The Summit will be held again in Botswana next year to review its action-plan. So, one can hope to have positive outcome of this war against wildlife mafias.Posted by Suresh Chotai