Death in the Forests
Day after day, the slaughter of the elephants continues at a record pace — 25,000 killed in 2011, conservationists say, and more than 30,000 last year. A study from the Wildlife Conservation Society shows that 60 percent of all African forest elephants (a slightly smaller subspecies of the African savanna elephant) have been killed in the last decade for their ivory, leaving about 80,000 in their primary habitats in Western and Central Africa.
Over all, other studies show, a mere 500,000 elephants survive in Africa, as little as one-tenth the estimated population 75 years ago. These and other grim numbers from places like Gabon, Chad, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo — even in well-protected game reserves — have added extra urgency to this year’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species conference in Bangkok, where delegates are struggling to find new ways to stop the massacre.
There is no mystery about the root cause of the killing: China’s insatiable demand for ivory, a demand fueled by that nation’s economic expansion, making what were once luxury goods accessible to a growing middle class. A recent survey commissioned by National Geographic concludes that the vast majority of well-to-do Chinese consumers (more than 80 percent) “plan to buy ivory goods in the future.” This increased demand has driven the price of ivory to as high as $1,000 a pound in Beijing, making life profitable for Africa’s ruthlessly bold poachers and creating a voracious and largely illegal ivory trade.
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