According to the World Wildlife Fund, the elephant is the largest animal walking the earth wandering 37 countries in Africa. Their presence help maintain suitable habitats for numerous other species but due to the illegal poaching for their ivory, over hunting for sport and the loss of their habitat the number of elephants are dwindling. Not yet considered endangered, they are vulnerable.
The illegal demand for ivory is the biggest driver of elephant poaching. Despite a global CITES ban on international sales of ivory since 1990, tens of thousands of elephants are killed to meet a growing demand for ivory products in the Far East. Asia stands behind a steadily increasing trend in illegal ivory and there are still thriving domestic ivory markets in Africa. Limited resources combined with remote and inaccessible elephant habitats make it difficult for governments to monitor and protect elephant herds. The impacts of war and over-exploitation of natural resources often lead to increased poaching as elephants are also regarded as source of wild meat. 2011 saw the highest volume of illegal ivory seized since global records began in 1989.
The punishment for poaching is very lenient as law professor and animal lover, Jonathan Turley notes in this report at his blog:
The reason why elephants are going extinct may have something to do with a trial in Cameroon against twin brothers accused of killing more than 100 elephants in Central Africa. What is most striking about this story is that these brothers – Symphorien Sangha and Rene Sangha – have been arrested before and never served a day in jail. Now, with over 100 dead elephants to their credit, they are only looking at a maximum of three years in jail. Indeed, Symphorien Sangha was found guilty of killing elephants and wounding a forest ranger. He will receive 10 years for wounding the ranger but no more than three years for killing a huge number of elephants and a long record of poaching. With a deterrent level of that kind, it is astonishing that any elephants remain alive.
If that isn’t outrageous enough, in a second article by Prof Turley, an NBC Sports Network show featured an NRA lobbyist, Tony Makris, shooting an elephant in the face and then celebrating while the animal lingered in pain before it is finally put down. I’m with Prof. Turley on this outrageous act:
I am also confused why this is so impressive. The elephant is standing there and you shoot it at close quarters in the face with a powerful weapon. The elephant however does not die after two shots but lingers in pain before it is finally put down. The episode ends with celebration with what appears to be champagne. [..]
The episode is filmed in the Botswana wilderness where he is led to around 20 feet from an elephant. While the number of elephants continue to fall in the country, a ban on trophy hunting will not kick in until 2014. That leaves people like Makris rushing to kill elephants while they still can.
We are not alone in our disgust:
NRA lobbyist Tony Makris sparks outrage by killing elephant on NBC show Under Wild Skies
by Bernard Humphries, The Australian
‘Under Wild Skies’ is hosted by Tony Makris, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association
In a highlighted reel from this week’s episode, Makris travels to Botswana and hunts an elephant, shooting it several times before it dies
Makris laughs as the animal lets out one last groan after the final shot and then he jokes about wanting to hunt for birds
Makris celebrates the hunt by drinking champagne
Some NBC Sports viewers are now calling on the network to cancel the show
I won’t post the video since it’s very graphic and disturbing. You can view it at Prof Turley’s site.
As one commenter put it, “We’re an awful species.”