35K Elephants Killed Yearly: U.S. Group Works to Save Them
Monday, March 30, 2015
RICHMOND, Va. – Close to 35,000 African elephants are killed every year for their tusks, according to some estimates, and U.S. wildlife experts are ringing the alarm bells in hopes the world will listen.
Peter LaFontaine, campaign officer for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in Washington, says while China is the number one consumer of ivory, a lot of it also is trafficked and sold in the U.S., sometimes passed off as antique.
So, an effort is underway by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement what LaFontaine describes as a near complete ban on ivory.
"And not only would this create certainty for law enforcement officers, it would really draw a bright line for consumers, who otherwise have been sent mixed messages on what's legal and what's not," he explains.
For instance, some ivory products can be legally purchased if they were produced before 1976.
LaFontaine says a ban would close many of the loopholes. He says there are about 400,000 African elephants left – down from 10 million just a century ago.
LaFontaine stresses the effort to save elephants needs to be three-pronged – with more assistance on the ground to combat the poachers, working to put an end to the trafficking and corruption that surrounds the illegal trade, and curbing consumer demand for ivory, with laws as well as education.
"As soon as you get people to understand that every piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant, you've already made terrific headway into stopping the problem of buying," he points out.
Elephants are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but IFAW and other wildlife groups are trying to get their status changed to endangered.
This would mean greater restrictions, including an end to American trophy-hunters who kill an average of 400 elephants per year for sport.
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