Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, April 27th, 2018

Can Burning Elephant Tusks Help In Protecting African and Asiatic Elephants?

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Can Burning Elephant Tusks Help In Protecting African and Asiatic Elephants?

Recently the Kenyan government has decided to burn huge quantities elephant tusks that they have confiscated over decades to send a strong message to the international ivory trade network. Although the symbolic gesture of the initiative is greatly appreciated; however, how much this will damage the trade network of elephant tusks used in the illegal ivory industries of China and South East Asia remains to be seen. The international illegal ivory trade network is a massive billion dollar industry with several major stakeholders including influential politicians and bureaucrats, forest guards and officers, wildlife traffickers, poachers, transporters and networkers operating across the continent of Asia and Africa with major head offices located in China and South East Asia. The ivory trade has huge investments and secret trading agents in all the major continents except Antarctica and Greenland. They guard this trade jealously and are often provided with secret political support in return for the share of the big booties generated through the illegal sale and smuggling of ivory products that includes jewellery, chopsticks, figurines, statues, paper knives, idols, miniature models, parts of artificial weaponry like handles of knives and swords, wall hangings, decorative pieces to mention only a few.
Hence, one could realize that simple burning of tusks will not be able to stop the international ivory network operating in elephant rich developing and under developed nations of Asia and Africa. While the conservation movement is being initiated across the globe, thousands of wild elephants in Asia and Africa are falling victims to the bullets of the poachers. The lucrative ivory markets of China and South East Asia have very high pull factor with constant demands for fresh elephant tusks to feed the hungry underground ivory industry. Under the present circumstances unless strong political will is involved and ivory trade is hit back by the general public by rejecting the ivory products, the mass slaughter of elephants could not be prevented.

One may ask that in spite of so much international pressures how could these markets operate in broad day light under public eye? The answer is that they are actually protected by very high level of political interest along with active support of international mafia and smuggling groups. These groups are so powerful and have penetrated so deeply in some countries inside the highest level of political elites and administrators that they could not be restricted with simple symbolic protests. Furthermore, the countries where elephants are distributed have struggling economy and poverty at the grass root level, causing local rural community members, forest residents and fringe dwellers to be easily entrapped with the local poaching units. Unless the economic conditions of the people are improved their dependence on poaching related crimes will be very difficult to restrict. With the growing demand for the ivory products across the globe and the wildlife markets transforming into booming investment grounds and employment generator; the future of both Asiatic and African elephants appear to be bleak.

Saikat Kumar Basu is a Canada and India based freelance journalist specializing in global geo-political, strategic and foreign policy issues, science & technology and environment & conservation related themes. Regularly contributes to newspapers, newsletters, bulletins, magazines and journals in Asia, Africa and the Americas.

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