There are many monstrosities committed against animals globally on a daily basis. One of the notable crimes against animals is the illegal poaching of rhinoceros and elephants for ivory. Ivory is one of the most precious materials and it is used for an abundance of reasons. The main reason poaching has become a problem is because western culture believes ivory has medicinal purposes. This makes ivory extremely valuable to the African people. One pound of ivory can be worth upwards of $1,500 because of high demands in Asia (Fears). More specifically, the illegal poaching of elephants and rhinoceros in Africa has reached crisis levels. The illegal poaching is putting wildlife in danger, harming and even killing hundreds of people, because of this, action needs to be taken to prevent further decimation of these species, including more funding and better protection, to stop this issue from becoming irreversible.
One of the most popular uses for ivory is Western medicine or alternative healing. Many people believe that ivory possesses supernatural healing powers. According to Fears, ivory is used for piano, walking sticks, and traditional chinese medicine, along with other things. Since ivory is used for so many products, the demand for it is strikingly high. Growing levels of poaching emerged as a result of these high demands, and has had harsh effects. The slaughter of these majestic animals is hard to comprehend. However, poachers have no regard for these animals and are only interested in profiting off the ivory.
The idea of poaching arose in the Middle Ages and has continuously affected the elephant and rhinoceros species of Africa. The population of elephants and rhinoceros started to have a dramatic decline in the 1970’s. In “Poaching”, Ramsey states “during the 1970’s and 1980’s, ivory poachers killed 93 percent of the elephants in Zambia’s North Luangwa National Park.” National parks’ are meant to protect and preserve wildlife, they’re not meant for poachers to hunt. Preservation is essential to keep species from becoming endangered, or even extinct. Endangerment and extinction can generate a multitude of complications, including inbreeding of species.
When animals are endangered, they are more susceptible to inbreeding due to lack of population. Genetically, inbreeding causes animals to become feeble and unlikely to survive as long. “More than 38 percent of the elephants in North Luangwa National Park are genetically tuskless, compared to 2 percent in a natural elephant population, because poachers targeted the mature, tusk-bearing animals of breeding age” (Ramsey). As a result of inbreeding, elephants are now losing their tusks, causing them to be incapable to perform the same tasks they used to. Their ability to use their tusks for protection, digging, and picking up objects is compromised. Not to mention, while the tuskless and inbred populations increase, the healthy population decreases. If elephants are already tuskless and weakened, what will the next gruesome genetic affect will be? Poaching jeopardizes the existence of the entire breed. A world without these exquisite creatures would be heartbreaking.
Since these species, among other things, have faced an absurd amount of atrocities, they are put at risk for extinction. Extinction is feasible, considering the rate at which these species are decreasing. “In some instances, it’s the primary reason why an animal faces a risk of extinction. This is the case with the African elephant, more than 100,000 of which were killed between 2014 and 2017 for ivory” (Actman). When poachers murder animals at such a high rate, they have no chance of survival because they can’t reproduce enough to keep up with the death rate. Elephants have the longest gestation period of all mammals, carrying their young for nearly twenty-four months. Elephants simply cannot reproduce at a rate that can offset how quickly they are being killed. While animals are being harmed and killed because of these ruthless poachers, innocent people are being put into danger as well as poachers themselves. I could argue that the elephants life is as important as human life but most people would disagree with me.
Although poaching is illegal, poachers continue to hunt and kill these animals. Poachers aren’t supposed to be slaughtering these animals, so, they take drastic measures to ensure they don’t get caught. “In Africa, nearly 600 rangers charged with protecting wildlife were gunned down by poachers between 2009 and 2016 while in the line of duty” (Actman). Innocent rangers, making an effort to help this issue, are being put at risk of death. It’s gut-wrenching these poachers didn’t receive a punishment because they were never caught. This displays there was not a sufficient amount of questioning and/or investigating put into the review of this appalling crime. Not only are these poachers endangering and brutally killing this species of animals, they are killing humans that get in the way of this illegal activity. “In the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park, one of the continent’s most dangerous, at least 170 rangers have been killed during the past two decades” (Actman). Is a human life truly valued less than a meager piece of ivory? Poachers genuinely admire elephants’ tusks and rhinoceros’ horns more than anything, and they will stop anyone and everything that gets in the way of their prize. While poachers are putting others in extreme danger, they are also putting themselves in hazardous situations. It is absolutely dismaying how poachers undervalue human life. In addition, the victims and their families are left with no justice for the murdered rangers.
Poachers are getting themselves into threatening circumstances as a result of the desire for ivory. In addition to rangers being killed, poachers are being murdered as well. “A rhinoceros poacher was stomped to death by an elephant and eaten by lions in a South Africa wildlife preserve, and rangers found just his skull and trousers, authorities said” (Meldrum). Meldrum continued to explain, “South Africans weighed in on social media, with many celebrating the poacher’s death.” South Africans have come to the point where they’re happy and relieved about a poacher’s death because of how destructive their actions have been on the whole community. How is it possible that poachers have access to these so-called protected areas? If areas were actually sheltered and protected, the rates at which elephants and rhinoceros were dying would be lower. Simply put, the amount of acreage that the animals require is too large to be protected at all times. With so many ranger deaths, these positions are hard to fill. Again, attributing to the poaching problem.
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Areas are not being protected to the magnitude they need to be. Due to the fact that these areas aren’t sufficiently protected, people are able to enter at their will. Once people enter these sanctuaries they are essentially able to do whatever they please, due to the lack of supervision. “The carcasses of 87 elephants have been discovered near a Botswana protected sanctuary, killed and stripped for their tusks” (Sullivan). Areas are continuing to find deceased elephants and rhinoceros, even though they live in protected areas. Once these people enter, they are able to harm any animals in the protected area. They are quick, organized, and ruthless in the death and ivory extraction of the animals. Poachers aren’t receiving consequences for entering and poaching animals in protected areas, so they have no urge to stop. They aren’t held accountable for their actions because there’s not enough police enforcement keeping them out of these regions. With more enforcement, police and rangers will be able to end this brutality, but it’s only possible to do with proper funding. Perhaps motion detectors, alarms, and cameras could be installed with proper funding. Hopefully, this would provide more of a deterrent for potential poaching.
Having proper funds allocated to support anti-poaching efforts is only half the battle to terminate poaching entirely. Adequate money is essential to have success within poaching areas, money directly affects the amount of security and safety, throughout these sanctuaries. For example, several areas have had their poaching significantly reduced to a smaller amount, or even to zero. “‘The success in Niassa shows that given the political will and proper funding, we can stop the poaching of elephants,’ James Bampton, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s country director in Mozambique” (Winsor). Preservation of these animals is possible with the appropriate amount of funds. Sanctuaries are putting an end to this vicious poaching and having a substantial measure of success. “The last time an elephant was recorded killed by a poacher in Mozambique’s Niassa Reserve was May 17, 2018, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society” (Winsor). Elephant poaching has come to a complete halt in Mozambique’s Niassa Reserve which certainly proves every place can have the same achievement. Efforts to stop poaching are crucial to the resolution of this epidemic. These increased measures of safety are only available with proper funding.
People are working towards finding the best solutions to keep the issue from increasing again. One way people are handling this is by working to diminish the worth and need of the products produced by ivory. “People are working to end poaching by trying to decrease demand for illegal wildlife and wildlife parts. If no one’s buying the products, there will be no need to kill the animals” (Actman). When the demand for wildlife products decreases, so does the poachers purpose to kill animals. If the poachers’ determination is reduced, they will have no intentions to continue to poach these animals. However, it doesn’t make sense for this to be the only solution for this complicated problem. Africa needs to take a multi-tiered approach to end ivory consumption and poaching.
Poachers continue to extract from elephants and rhinoceros because ivory is their main source of income. They are supporting their families any way necessary in a depressed economy. However, there are organizations implementing new approaches for poachers to earn a living. “There are also numerous nonprofits around the world working to end wildlife poaching. Some of these groups have helped to promote alternative, more sustainable ways for poachers to earn a living” (Actman). Poachers believe this is the best way to earn money fast, but in reality, they don’t realize the extent of these extremities they go through to retrieve ivory. Non-profit organizations find it of extreme importance to assist poachers all together to stop poaching. When assisted by organizations, these people are guided on the right path to find a career that will help them live sustainably, instead of poaching illegally.
Non- profit organizations can be extremely helpful to poachers that are willing to make a change. They have already been beneficial, and rates have gone down, but not to the degree necessary. “Conservationists warned that African elephants could be extinct by 2020 if poaching continued at these rates” (Ramsey). African elephants would possibly be extinct today if it wasn’t for anti-poaching efforts. Luckily, sanctuaries have made advancements, but not everyone has had total success. People need to keep trying to put regulations into place or else the problem will linger around forever. If people aren’t serious about keeping these changes, it’s very possible to have another outbreak of poaching. Along with Africa, the United States has put regulations into place to decrease the poaching rates.
When President Obama was in office, he saw poaching as an issue that needed to be resolved. He took matters into his own hands, and outlawed selling ivory, but along with that, there are a couple exceptions. “Preexisting items manufactured with ivory such as musical instruments used in orchestras, furniture and items such as firearms containing fewer than 200 grams are exempt” (Fears). This was a substantial effort by Obama to stop poaching, but it wasn’t enough to conclude this matter entirely.
In conclusion, there is a multifaceted solution needed to end the horror of ivory poaching in Africa of elephants and rhinoceros. Although ivory poaching illegal, it doesn’t stop the poachers. We need to change the perception that ivory has magical healing powers and outlaw all products made from ivory. Additionally, Africa needs proper funding to increase security for their animal sanctuaries. Cameras and more rangers are needed to guard the vast acreage of the sanctuaries in Africa. Africa also needs to be diligent in providing alternative employment for the poachers. The poachers feel that they are doing what is necessary to support themselves and their families. We need to change this way of thinking because preservation is possible. To keep these animals safe from extinction, a combined effort needs to be made to stop poaching.