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Elephant Poaching on the Rise Again: Kenyan Government Burns Ivory to Raise Awareness

Mungu, a bull elephant in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve, was recently killed for his tusks. Photo credit: Save the Elephants

You may have seen recent news reports of the burning of five tons of elephant ivory worth $16 million by the Kenyan government in a Kenyan national park on Thursday, July 20, and wondered: Why are we back to burning ivory to draw attention to elephant poaching; didn’t we solve that problem a decade ago? The answer is yes and no.   Elephant poaching deaths declined in the 1980s, but have recently spiked, according to Aid for Africa member Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN).  WCN works with Save the Elephants, a Kenyan elephant conservation group that has been helping to preserve and build elephant populations in Kenya for almost 20 years.

According to Save the Elephants founder Iain Douglas-Hamilton, a conservation pioneer whose early research helped to bring about the world ivory trade ban in 1989, “. . . elephants were recovering from the excessive poaching of the 1970s and 1980s . . . up until 2008. However the new poaching spike, driven by new demand, is threatening one of Africa’s most peaceful elephant populations, one with family groups who have grown trusting of humans.”

And the problem is not just in Kenya. An article in the July issue of Vanity Fair highlights the loss of thousands of elephants in recent years in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Zimbabwe, and other African countries. The Associated Press reports that in the 1970s there were 1.3 million elephants in Africa; today there are 500,000.

The price of ivory has doubled in the last two years and the increase in poaching is the result of demand coming from the Far East and China, according to the Wildlife Conservation Network.  So the Kenyan Government with support from conservation groups is sounding the alarm again to save the elephants.

Wildlife conservation in Africa is an important focus of Aid for Africa’s mission. Aid for Africa members are working to protect species such as elephants, mountain gorillas, and rhinos, as well as critical habitats that include rainforests, which are home to endangered species of frogs and small mammals. Our members recognize that for wildlife conservation solutions to be lasting, they must be local and incorporate the needs of humans and wildlife alike.

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