Did you know that 96 elephants are killed every day in Africa? Heavily armed poachers kill 35,000 elephants every single year. One of the main reasons that these majestic creatures are killed is for their ivory tusks, which can then be sold for rather high prices. Much of the ivory trade is on the black market, and although more nations are banning the sale of ivory, the threat to the elephants continues. Most of the ivory that leaves Africa is acquired and transported illegally. In fact, over 80% of all the raw ivory that is traded today comes from poached elephants in Africa. Poaching increased between 2006 and 2012, and just between 2006 and 2009, 3,000 elephants were killed. In Chad in the year 2013, 86 elephants were killed, including 33 pregnant females, striking a blow to one of Africa’s significant elephant populations. In 2014, it was estimated that only 50,000 elephants remained in Central Africa. The remaining populations are located primarily in Gabon and the Republic of Congo.
The total elephant population in 2014 was around 700,000, and today, BBC estimates that there are around 415,000 elephants left, a figure that represents a 30% decline in the population within the last seven years. This is at least partly due to the fact that less than 20% of the African elephant range is legally protected, which makes it much easier for poachers to kill these elephants and get away with impunity.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has created a campaign called 96 Elephants to help protect these animals, named for the statistic mentioned earlier. WCS helps to manage reserves and train locals in how best to protect the elephants and also stop more money from ending up in criminal syndicates. WCS has also been working with African law enforcement to help shut down the ivory trafficking networks. According to the 96 Elephants campaign website, “in January 2017, our Wildlife Crime Unit in northern Congo was part of a big bust that yielded over 150 lbs. of ivory”. The organization has also supported African nations in developing action plans and strategies for protecting their elephants. In 2016, the END Wildlife Trafficking Act was passed in the United States, which was an extremely important anti-wildlife-trafficking law, showing that people all around the world are committed to solving this problem.
Much of this is possible because of what regular people have done to stand up for the African elephants. The U.S. government received 164,238 comments from individuals talking about the importance of a federal ivory ban. WCS also received 78,564 origami elephants from all of the states along with 40 countries around the world. These kinds of actions help raise awareness about these kinds of critical issues, and whether it is writing to your government or signing a petition, there is always something that you can do to help! It is more important than ever that we come together to protect these special animals. Poaching is illegal and inhumane, and it is only by working together that we will be able to stop it.