Search form

From France to Ethiopia, A Global Fight Grows Against Ivory and Illegal Poaching

From France to Ethiopia, A Global Fight Grows Against Ivory and Illegal Poaching
Thu, 12/26/2013 - by Joseph Mayton

Mohamed Abijian, an Ethiopian anti-poaching activist, has worked tirelessly in Tanzania and Kenya to educate youth on the horrors of the ivory trade, the destruction of natural habitats and illegal poaching of elephants in East Africa. While he spends much of his time battling local “cultural” customs, the past year has seen progress in the global fight against ivory.

“We have seen a lot of movement by governments to end their complicity in the global ivory trade,” he told from Kenya, where he was on a teaching expedition to local schools in remote villages. “It is a positive step in the right direction and I believe this is the beginning of the end of elephants being targeted and killed, because if we take away the market there will be few people to buy the tusks.”

But that is just part of the battle, Abijian says. While education is vital to the “future of African elephants and the youth that will be able to care for our wildlife,” he also believes the global movement led by international organizations and activists is key to the overall change in many people's attitudes toward the ivory trade.

“We must work and work and work towards ending the unnecessary killing of elephants for their tusks and ivory because it is destroying the natural wildlife and landscape that makes this part of the world so amazing and beautiful,” he argues.

Abijian's comments came after both the United States and France agreed to destroy their entire inventory of illegal ivory. France's move was met with great fanfare in mid-November, after activists expressed doubts the French government would support the global action against ivory.

“It is a beautiful moment for France because we had been seen as not wanting to really make a stand, but the government has done it and we are excited about this move,” said one former museum curator turned international activist, Francois Garboult.

Garboult believes France's destruction of its illegal ivory inventory will send a message to would-be poachers: that ivory belongs to the animal and can no longer be treated as a commodity to murder for.

“This is a sign that the international community is ready to engage and help Africa deal with the poaching problem,” Garboult argued.

An inventory of France's illegal ivory storage places, and the quantities held, is currently in the making; it will include court registries, natural history museums and border police storage facilities. The total amount of ivory could reach dozens of tons. Officials said that only a few pieces of ivory are to be kept for scientific and pedagogical reasons.

History of Poaching

While the past year has seen an increased cutdown on poaching, experts feel it will still take major efforts to end poaching after decades of illegal hunting, which became entrenched as a form of livelihood in financially desperate communities.

In the early 1970s, demand for ivory soared and the amount of ivory leaving Africa rose to levels not seen since the start of the 20th century. Most of the ivory leaving Africa was taken illegally and, according to the World Wildlife Fund, over 80 percent of all the raw ivory traded came from poached elephants.

“This illegal trade was largely responsible for reducing the African elephant population from 3 to 5 million to current levels. In the 1980s, for example, an estimated 100,000 elephants were being killed per year and up to 80% of herds were lost in some regions,” said the WWF in a press release on the subject.

Poaching was generally well-organized and difficult to control because of the availability of automatic weapons. But in 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the international trade in ivory. It was the beginning, albeit a small one, to combating the illegal trade that had grown dramatically over the past two decades.

“As the ban came into force in 1990, some of the major ivory markets were eliminated," continued the WWF report. "Some countries in Africa experienced a steep decline in illegal killing, especially where elephants were adequately protected. This allowed some elephant populations to recover."

Poaching Continues

Despite efforts in the 1990s and 2000s to bring an end to poaching, local law enforcement agencies often lacked the strategic means to do so, and thus found it difficult to tackle the problem on a large scale. As a result, the killing of elephants has continued.

According to statistics published by National Geographic, thousands of elephants are slaughtered annually so their tusks can be traded on the black market in far away areas of the world, notably China and Southeast Asia. But for Abijian, the past year has produced dramatic international success. And he believes these victories coupled with continued efforts of local activists like himself can continue to have a major impact.

“We have to take advantage of the situation and show our young people that there are other ways to support and care for the natural world. This is what I and others do on a regular basis and we see so many young kids ready to join the fight against the killing of elephants," Abijian says.

Article Tabs

Uncharted, Berkeley Festival of Ideas, drug policy reform, prison reform, GMOs, water crisis, First Amendment rights, medical overtreatment, human rights

The city that birthed the Free Speech Movement and was the staging ground for America's cultural revolution of the 1960s is now building on that past with a festival to reinvigorate the spirit of active political and intellectual debate.

Jeremy Corbyn, UK Uncut, UK anti-austerity movement, grassroots networks, Marsha Thompson, John McDonell, Labour Party, UK austerity politics

The election of the outspoken left-wing leader marked a sea change in British politics and encouraged droves to jump into party activism – now there's a new way for them to do it with the launch of the grassroots network Momentum.

U.S. war culture, Columbus Day, Kunduz boming

The confluence of Columbus Day Weekend and the Kunduz hospital bombing has us thinking about the deep levels of cultural violence in the United States and what can be done to change it.

money in politics, money buying influence, Citizens United, corporate campaign donations, Super PACs, Dodd-Frank regulations, oil wealth, tech wealth, Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity

Just 158 families have provided nearly half of the early money for efforts to capture the White House – with most wealth coming from the fossil fuel and financial service industries, and almost all of it going toward Republicans.

LIBOR interest rate rigging, LIBOR scandal, Loretta Lynch, banking crimes, bankers on trial, British Bankers Association

Two bankers who worked for a Dutch bank in London are being charged in a Manhattan court with wire and banking fraud.

Group of Five, Group of 10, G-5, G-10, global governance, World Bank, IMF, Group of 20, G-20

An overlapping and highly integrated network of institutions, committees and secret meetings of ad-hoc groups collectively make up the most powerful and informal political structure in the world.

Posted 5 days 15 hours ago

Welcome to nightmare capitalism, survival-by-popularity, the real Hunger Games: where we're forced to go online and crowdfund our way to rent payments, child support, illness recovery and more.

Posted 4 days 14 hours ago

Rebel Cities are desirable as a form of disobedience that defy states, legal frameworks, supranations or markets.

Posted 5 days 15 hours ago

This week, it's about time we hear about climate change – but really hear it.

Posted 6 days 14 hours ago

Manchester Foodbank offers warmth, a listening ear – and most importantly, it has handed out more than 2,700 food parcels this year to people who have found themselves hungry in an era of Conservative government cuts.

Posted 6 days 14 hours ago

This week, it's about time we hear about climate change – but really hear it.

refugee crisis, Refugees Welcome, E.U. migrant crisis, Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network

Glasgow Council became the first local council in the U.K. to offer guaranteed support and accommodation to refugees surging into Europe from Syria, Afghanistan and other war-torn countries.

Welcome to nightmare capitalism, survival-by-popularity, the real Hunger Games: where we're forced to go online and crowdfund our way to rent payments, child support, illness recovery and more.

GMOs, genetically modified food, GMO labeling, money in politics, H.R. 1599, Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, JustLabelIt, Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, Organic Trade Association, U.S. Right to Know

Corporations like Monsanto and Coca-Cola have poured more than $50 million into the fight against GMO labeling in the first half of 2015 alone.

As the child of Chinese immigrants and as a woman, Grace learned early on that the world needed changing.

Sign Up