Ivory prices hit the sky, push poaching up

In just the last eight years the price of illegal ivory has increased 15 fold from US $100 a kg to $1500 a kg.

In 1999 Japan was the only legal buyer of ivory. In 2008 it was joined by China. The three biggest illegal ivory markets are in China, Japan, and Thailand.

As of last year, Tanzania had 90 tons of ivory stockpiles seized by government officials from illegal poachers. Zambia had 22 tons. Each tusker elephant’s ivory is about 2-3 meters long and weighs an average of 100 kg.

Elephant population in Tanzania has declined by 30,000 in just the last three years. The population has declined 80 per cent since 1981.

Twenty seven countries led by Kenya, opposed the petition to sell the ivory. They say poaching has escalated in their countries because of ivory sales. A lot of the elephants lost are old matriarchs, which are vital for herds. Initially male elephants were prime targets because they had big tusks. But when the average size of male tusks began to decline the poachers turned to females. They are easier to find because they move in groups while males are solitary animals. The loss of matriarchs has disrupted the social structure of the herds.

From 1990 poaching has risen relentlessly. Between 1997-2000, about 10-20 tonnes of illegal ivory were seized. In 2002 again when the government approved a sale petition, illegal ivory recovered went up to 34 tons. Now the stockpile is at over 90 tonnes.

Pic: awf.org

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