Tusks are one of the distinguishable features of the elephant. These protruding teeth can grow an average of six feet long and weigh about 50 pounds each on an African elephant. Tusks help elephants dig holes, protect themselves, gather food and strip bark from trees.
Although tusks are very useful to elephants, they are also one of the main reasons they are being killed. To better understand why African elephant poaching is occurring our team wants to share this information about ivory.
What is ivory?
The term “ivory” is used to describe the hard, white material from the tusks of mammalian animals. Animals that have tusks are elephants, hippopotami, walruses, sperm whales and narwhals. The ivory of an elephant, however, is the most popular and highly valued.
Ivory is obtained by poaching, which is the illegal hunting process, capturing and killing wild animals. Poachers hunt down animals for their body parts like ivory, fur, organs, bones, horns and teeth. These body parts of animals are then sold in illegal trade and markets where they are sold for high prices.
Why is ivory considered so valuable?
Ivory is considered to be valuable culturally. In African culture, it was considered a symbol of status and power. Elders and chiefs used ivory to showcase their economic power. In China, ivory is also considered a symbol of wealth and good luck. It is used for ornaments and jewelry.
The negative impacts of the ivory trade
One major problem with the ivory trade is the decrease in animal populations. Poaching for ivory has put several species on the brink of extinction. The Center for Biological Diversity states that around 30,000 species are driven to extinction every year due to poaching.
Elephants are one of those animals that is now considered endangered due to poaching. It is estimated that 100 African elephants are killed each day due to African elephant poaching. The combination of habitat loss and poaching has caused African savanna elephants to become endangered and African forest elephants to become critically endangered.
Asian elephants have also been impacted by poaching for ivory. However, for these kinds of elephants, it is a little different. Male Asian elephants (bulls) only have protruding tusks. The female Asian elephants have smaller and less noticeable tusks. This has resulted in many male Asian elephants getting poached.
What is being done to stop the poaching of ivory?
There is currently an ivory trade ban put in place to stop the trade of elephant ivory. In the United States, there is an almost total ban on the ivory trade.
The African and Asian elephants are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). These two acts help control the movement of ivory domestically and internationally.
China is considered to be the largest consumer of ivory products. Despite the large number of ivory consumers, China has taken great steps to stop the trade of ivory. In 2017, China put an end to the legal selling of ivory in domestic markets.
How you can help African elephant poaching
There are several ways to help stop the poaching of elephants. You spread awareness about poaching and supporting nonprofits that work to improve the life of elephants.
At For Elephants, we’re partnered with Elephants Alive and working to strengthen their data on elephant movements. While also conducting research on elephant biology to improve zoo management. You can donate to our research by joining our Herd of Heroes! Join down below!