Poachers in Zimbabwe have killed at least 40 elephants in recent weeks using a particularly cruel and efficient method: cyanide poisoning.
The Washington Post reports that poachers have used industrial-grade cyanide to poison watering holes and salt licks favored by elephants in Hwange National Park, a Connecticut-sized reserve located on the border with Botswana. Cyancide-laced oranges have also been used, and species not targeted by poachers were among the victims.
Park rangers found the carcasses of 26 elephants on Tuesday, a week after 14 other animals were found poisoned. No arrests have been made in the case.
“Any person with wildlife at heart would be worried about the method with which these poachers are killing wildlife,” Caroline Washaya-Moyo, a spokeswoman for Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, said in an interview with the Post.
An alleged ivory magnate has been arrested and charged with smuggling tusks worth nearly $2.5 million in Tanzania, where rampant poaching in recent years has devastated the nation’s elephant population.
Yang Feng Glan, a 66-year-old Chinese national reportedly known as the “Ivory Queen,” is accused of being a crucial link between poaching syndicates in East Africa and buyers in China and other nations. News of her Wednesday arrest was first reported by Elephant Action League.
"Tanzania has had the most serious elephant poaching of any country in recent years with few prosecutions, so this is an important case," said WildAid CEO Peter Knights. "But as well as arresting the smugglers, corrupt officials who enable this trade need to be prosecuted."
On Sunday, California Gov. Jerry Brown made history by signing into law AB 96, crucial legislation that if successfully enforced will shutter the ivory and rhino horn trade in the Golden State!
Though California has long restricted the ivory trade, carvings and other ivory products imported before 1977 have been legal to sell. As a result, the state’s ivory market has provided a cover for the laundering of ivory from recently poached elephants, as legal markets do in Hong Kong and other ivory trading hubs around the world.
"With the passage of AB 96, California is leading by example in making the ivory and rhino horn trade a thing of the past," WildAid CEO Peter Knights said of Gov. Brown's signing of the bill, co-authored by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Senator Ricardo Lara. "The new law will make enforcement a far easier matter and sends a clear signal to the rest of the world that ivory and rhino horn have no value here. We thank Governor Brown for his support and call on all US states to join California, New York and New Jersey in banning this destructive trade."
In a significant show of support for Africa's elephants, Thailand officials crushed over two tons of confiscated ivory on Wednesday, including tusks, carvings and trinkets that were pulverized with a hammer mill and later incinerated.
The nation's first-ever ivory destruction ceremony began with Buddhist and Brahmin faith leaders praying for at least 200 elephants that had been slaughtered for their ivory that was destroyed. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who presided over the ceremony, said the crush would not be a one-off event, and that Thailand is committed to fighting the illegal wildlife trade.
"The destruction of confiscated ivory in Bangkok will not in itself put an end to the illegal trade," CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanlon said in a statement. "It is, however, ensuring that no one will ever profit from this contraband. When coupled with seizures, prosecution and conviction of offenders, it sends a powerful message that Thailand does not and will not tolerate this illegal trade."
WWF Thailand and Freeland were involved in auditing the ivory stockpile as well as overseeing the destruction process. "This event aligns the commitment of the Thai government and the will of Thai people with the global priority of stopping the illegal ivory trade," said WWF’s Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, who participated in the audit.
On the occasion of his historic trip to East Africa, President Obama pledged stronger measures to end ivory sales in the United States, widely considered to be the world’s second largest market after China.
"Our countries are also close partners in the fight against poachers and traffickers that threaten Kenya's world-famous wildlife," Obama said during a Saturday press conference alongside President Kenyatta of Kenya. "The United States has a ban already on the commercial import of elephant ivory. I can announce we're proposing a new rule that bans the sale of virtually all ivory across our state lines, which will eliminate the market for illegal ivory in the United States," while further restricting imports and exports, the President said.
Under current federal law, ivory can be sold legally across state lines if it was imported prior to January 18, 1990, the date when African elephants were officially listed under CITES Appendix I — the greatest level of international protection for threatened and endangered species such as gorillas, tigers and giant pandas. The seller is obligated to prove that ivory was imported before 1990.
But under the new proposed rule, ivory can be sold across state lines only if:
• An item is an antique exempted under the Endangered Species Act, and is at least 100 years old, among other criteria;
• The item contains only a small amount of ivory — specifically under 200 grams — that was acquired prior to 1990. Musical instruments, firearms and some furniture pieces could fall under this exempted category.
Hong Kong's ivory market is booming thanks to an influx of tourists seeking luxury items — and that's impeding international efforts to end Africa’s elephant poaching crisis, according to a new report released Wednesday by Save the Elephants.
A survey of 72 Hong Kong retail outlets found nearly 31,000 ivory items displayed for sale, with jewelry the most popular item followed by figurines. Vendors estimated that 90% of customers were tourists from mainland China.
“No other city surveyed has so many pieces of ivory on sale as Hong Kong,” report co-author Esmond Martin said in a statement. “With higher taxes on the mainland, Hong Kong has become a cheaper place to buy ivory. With 40 million people crossing the border between the territories every year and controls lax, there’s little chance of their getting caught.”
Licensed vendors can legally sell ivory products obtained prior to 1990 when an international ban on ivory imports went into effect. But the city's licensing system has been roundly condemned as ineffective, allowing for the sale of illegal ivory from recently poached elephants.
On Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) destroyed 1 ton of ivory in New York’s Times Square — a remarkable show of support and solidarity with Africa’s elephants and the people working to stop poaching and the illegal trade.
WildAid was on hand to witness the destruction of these carvings in a 25-ton rock crusher — check out more photos/video of the event below.
During his remarks, USFWS director Daniel Ashe announced that his agency will be working with WildAid on an upcoming domestic campaign aimed at ending the illegal wildlife trade in the United States. We look forward to working with USFWS and we'll keep you updated on this campaign as it takes shape!
DAR ES SALAAM (18 June 2015) — Tanzania's Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, in association with WildAid and the African Wildlife Foundation, has launched a new public awareness campaign to inform the public about the severe poaching crisis currently facing Tanzania and to generate widespread support among civil society for the protection of elephants and other wildlife species.
The campaign will use television, radio, social media, newspapers and magazines, billboards and videos in public spaces in order to reach as many members of the public as possible, including the residents of remote rural villages.
Tanzania has lost 60% of its elephants in the past six years, mainly because of poaching for ivory. Very large profits from this illegal activity are made in China and other consumer nations, while Tanzanians are left to bear the cost.
Award-winning singer-songwriter Alikiba has become an ambassador for the campaign. "I'm honoured to lend any support that I can to this effort to protect our wildlife,” Alikiba said. "Our beautiful elephants must be allowed to live — free and wild — instead of ending up as a carving on somebody's coffee table."
In statements made this week by a top Chinese official to the Washington Post, China has pledged a high-level commitment to ending its current legal commercial ivory trade.
While a concrete timetable has yet to be developed, the official, Dr. Meng Xianlin of the CITES Management Authority of China, confirmed the action could happen "very quickly."
WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants, who have mounted the world’s largest ivory public awareness campaign with Chinese media, have welcomed this action as a historic move in the fight to save African elephants from rampant poaching. An estimated 33,000 elephants are being killed every year to supply ivory markets in China, Thailand, Hong Kong, the U.S. and other nations.
“Ending legal sales of ivory in China is the greatest single step that can be taken to reduce elephant poaching in Africa and we hope it can happen as soon as possible. We applaud China for its leadership and will continue to work closely with Chinese state and private media in our campaigns to reduce demand for ivory," WildAid CEO Peter Knights said.
Lang Lang, one of the world’s most famous classical pianists performing today, has stepped up to fight the global ivory trade in a stirring new public service announcement (PSA) to be distributed throughout his native China, the world’s largest market for ivory.
As part of the Ivory Free campaign sponsored by WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants, Lang Lang’s PSA aims to educate the public on the toll that both legal and illegal ivory sales are taking on Africa’s elephants: An estimated 33,000 are poached annually.