In our pursuit for adventure are we unwittingly fuelling an ongoing demand for more elephants to be illegally captured from the wild, with dire consequences? With no more than 45,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, are there better ways that we as tourists, could appreciate and help conserve these incredible animals?
This week Hong Kong officials incinerated the first batch of ivory, from a 29.6 tonne stockpile, which in January 2014 they committed to destroy over a two year period. There are those that will question this move, claiming that destroying ivory stockpiles acts to increase the value of remaining ivory. The reality however is very different.
The truth is that destroying works of art and trying to erase history isn't the answer... in itself. We cannot and should not attempt to erase history. What has happened has happened, but what is important is that we learn from history, use it to better ourselves, use it to remedy the issues that once presented themselves and that once burdened us and tarnished our names.
China's ivory stockpile destruction was significant because it is the world's largest ivory marketplace. Ivory carving and sales are legal in China and this has provided a cover for the trade there. An estimated 30,000 African elephants were illegally killed last year for their tusks; at this rate, the remaining 400,000 African elephants will be wiped out in two decades.
The amount of money now washing around Asia and the seemingly unquenchable demand there for ivory, particularly in countries such as Vietnam and China, has caused the price charged on the black market to soar. Indeed in many places ivory is now worth more per ounce than gold. The result has been an almost unprecedented slaughter on the savannahs. Some 100 elephants are being killed per day in Africa, and at present rates of poaching the surviving population in the wild risks being decimated within a decade. Chad had 15,000 elephants. Now it is 400.