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Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world

Poachers still killing 100 elephants daily in Africa

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Twenty years after the international ban on ivory trade took effect, poachers are still slaughtering more than 100 elephants a day, according to a report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

The ban on ivory trade, established by the U.N.'s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), took effect on October 17, 1989. At the time an average of 200 elephants were killed every day in Africa. Poaching almost ceased after the ban, but it is now on the increase once again, felling an average of 104 elephants per day, the IFAW has found.

In the 10 years before the ban, African elephant populations had dropped from 1.2 million to 600,000. Twenty years later, that number now stands at around 470,000.

Over the last few years, CITES has allowed several one-off sales of ivory stockpiles, mostly from elephants that died of natural causes. But according to IFAW, this has fed consumer demand and created opportunities for the black market to mask its operations. The world financial crisis has made things even worse: Many African nations have had to cut back on their antipoaching operations, giving illegal wildlife traders even more incentive to profit from their operations.

Can this increase in elephant poaching be reversed? IFAW is calling for CITES to completely ban ivory sales for the next 20 years, in hopes of destroying the market for legal and illegal ivory.

The next CITES meeting about elephants won't be held until March. Unfortunately, at current rates, that means at least 12,000 African elephants could die in the interim.

Image: African Elephant by Jeremy Doorten, via Stock.xchng

 

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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