It is distressing to see the plight of the tusk-bearing animals these days. Numerous news headlines are daily highlighting the illegal smuggling of ivory. The extortionate value and demand of the ivories are not only in India, but also in the international markets. Wild animals are mercilessly being poached on a massive scale, possessing a major existential threat to wildlife. But do we really care or do enough to stop this inhumane and selfish act?
Let us first understand the connotation of the word ‘poaching’.
Poaching, in simple words, is the illicit act of killing, shooting, hunting or capturing of animals. The aim of this illegal act is mainly for the purpose of trade of animal products like skin, teeth, horn, bone, etc. Poaching plays a decisive role in being a contributor to biodiversity loss. Due to this felonious act, the number of extinctions has increased dramatically over the past decades. It is necessary to understand that poaching is not only about the uncontrolled killing of protected animals or endangered animals but any unlawful killing of animals.
Smuggling of elephant tusks
In India, poaching of elephants is very common and a major challenge to be combated. Ivory trade is in high demand mostly in the Asian countries. About 20,000 elephants are mercilessly killed every single year for their tusks. These ivory tusks are then smuggled in the international markets to eventually end up as ivory trinkets.
Ivory trade has been in practise for millennia. In the 14th century BCE, the exportation of ivory and slaves from Africa and Asia were done extensively. The freshly captured slaves along with the tusks were sold. The ivory was then used to make ornaments and aesthetically pleasing commodities.
On July 6, 2016, a complete ban on commercial trade in African elephant ivory went into effect in the United States. The African elephant population has decreased dramatically. Near about 350,000 elephants are left in Africa, as per 2019 data. It is quite shocking to know that 10,000 to 20,000 elephants are slain every year. Elephant numbers have dropped by 62% over the last decade, and if not brought under control, then they’ll be extinct by the end of the next decade.
Major countries where these tusks are sold
China is the biggest consumer market for ivory products. However, a ban was enforced on ivory trade by China in the year 2017. But it is evident that ivory is in high demand in many countries. Illegal selling of ivory is still rampant. In the year 2011, a whopping amount of 100kg of ivory was seized by Tanzanian officials. That same year several countries including Tanzania and Kenya seized a total of 17 ivory shipments weighing 800 kg.
According to surveys and in-depth interviews the demand for ivory is known to be concentrated in: China, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and the United States.
Last year, about 8.8 tonnes of ivory items were seized in Singapore.
The adverse effects of tusk-removal on the elephants
I am sure that we have all seen the majestic elephants flaunting big, off-white tusks on either side of their trunks. These tusks are both beautiful on the elephant and of utmost importance in the species’ survival.
Many poachers claim that there are no after effects of tusk-removal. Either the elephants are killed or sedated before removing their beautiful tusks.
An elephant’s tusk is deeply embedded in its skull. When the tusks are removed, there is a big hole left afterwards. The hole is big enough to stick your arm into it. If the tusks are removed at the point where it protrudes from the head, the nerve is exposed. Either way, now the wound is open and vulnerable to all sorts of infection. So, even though the elephant remains alive it is still at risk. Now, suppose there is an ivory poacher. Any poacher will want as much ivory as he can acquire with as little risk as possible. If he opts for the removal of the tusk completely, he/she will have to completely sedate or kill the elephant, because of little time and the fear of getting caught.
But is it just the elephants?
The answer is a ‘Big No’. Ivory has been valuable since ancient times in art and manufacturing a range of items and artefacts. Though elephant ivory is the most important source, ivory of walruses, mammoth, killer whale, sperm whale, hippopotamus, narwhal and warthog are used as well.
The international and national trade of ivory of threatened species such as African and Asian elephants is illegal.
Read about ivory trade and other tusk bearing species at- https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivory_trade#:~:text=The%20ivory%20trade%20is%20the,resulting%20in%20restrictions%20and%20bans.