2011 will go down in the record books as the worst year for elephant poaching since the sale of ivory was outlawed in 1989. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 3,000 elephants were killed for their tusks during the last 12 months according to experts such as wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC’s Tom Milliken.
In fact, Malaysian authorities confiscated hundreds of African elephant tusks worth $1.3 million that were being shipped to Cambodia in one raid alone earlier this month. The ivory was hidden in containers of Kenyan handicrafts.
“In 23 years of compiling ivory seizure data, this is the worst year ever for large ivory seizures,” said Milliken, who added that the majority of cases involved shipments bound for Asia, where there is an endless hunger for ivory ornaments, as well as rhino horns used in traditional medicine, despite the fact that scientists maintain that they contain no true medicinal properties.
In addition, Reuters reports that TRAFFIC has found that ‘Asian crime syndicates are increasingly involved in poaching and the illegal ivory trade across Africa, a trend that coincides with growing Asian investment on the continent.”
“The escalation in ivory trade and elephant and rhino killing is being driven by the Asian syndicates that are now firmly enmeshed within African societies,” Milliken said in a telephone interview from his base in Zimbabwe on Thursday.
“There are more Asians than ever before in the history of the continent, and this is one of the repercussions.”
Jason Bell, director of the elephant program for the fund based in Yarmouth Port, MA added that, “reports from Central Africa are particularly alarming and suggest that if current levels of poaching are sustained, some countries, such as Chad, could potentially lose their elephant populations in the very near future.” He said poaching had also reached “alarming levels” in Congo, northern Kenya, southern northern Mozambique, and Tanzania where approximately 50 elephants a month are being killed for their tusks at the Selous Game Reserve alone.
On addition, “a record 443 rhino were killed this year in South Africa, according to National Geographic News Watch, almost 100 more than in 2009, despite the deployment of soliders to protect the endangered animals this year in its flagship Kruger National Park.
The country is home to 90% of all rhinos left on the African continent, “with more than 10,000 white rhinos and about 500 black rhinos,” said to reside in Kruger.
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