Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Rush For Ivory: the War for the White Gold of Africa

Far away from the indiscrete eyes of the civilized world, a mute and sad genocide happens. The victims of massacre are the giants of Africa, the elephants. They are slaughtered by thousands every year, even now, during the 21st century. The kind and intelligent elephants are threatened by human greed, and if the phenomenon continues, their extinction is inevitable.

The teeth that bring money

The fascination of humans for the white fangs of elephants is older than the current civilization. Since immemorial times, people that lived in caves used the fangs to create weapons, icons, or even to use those for constructing shelters.

Therefore, commerce with ivory is one of the oldest forms of trade in nature. For millenniums, the fangs of elephants, hippopotamus and even walruses were traded for other goods. Even so, the most precious fangs were the ones of African elephants. The interest exists even today, and this leads to the disappearance of the biggest and most interesting terrestrial mammal.

Let’s not be tempted to blame only the slaughtering by the modern people. This rush for ivory leaded to the disappearance of the elephants from Northern Africa 1000 years ago. The tendency was reduced until the 19th century, when the demand for ivory exploded. During this century, the Western Africa populations of elephants were destroyed. At the beginning of the 20th century, almost 1000 tons of ivory were sent every year in Europe. The two world wars stopped this massacre for a while. During wars, the demand for luxury products is reduced, and this was maybe the luck of elephants, for a while.

After the wars, the greed for luxury of the new rich people of the planet was also mirrored in the things they owned. For example, the flaps of pianos of rich people were made of authentic ivory. Of course, they also needed statues made of ivory, as well as dices and all kinds of useless objects that can be made of any other common material.

 A surprising importer of ivory was Japan. Ivory was used for manufacturing some traditional seals, so during the 80’s, 40% of the ivory exported by African countries went to Japan.

In the year 1979, almost 1.3 millions of elephants lived on the African continent. In 1989, the population was reduced to 600 000. This means 75 000 elephants killed every year. The situation was alarming especially because the poverty of African countries. Locals had nothing else to do around here, so hunting the elephants was their only preoccupation. Some the European and American countries tried to impose an embargo on the commerce with ivory, but all those initiatives failed.

However, the poverty and hunger in Africa was too strong for the attempts of some organizations. Even if some countries decided to forbid the imports of ivory, the African “businesspersons” continued to export ivory in the Asian countries and in Japan.

The situation is the same even today. In the National Park of Garamba, in Congo, the elephants are shot by the Uganda soldiers, which then push the borders to claim their prizes.

Africa is maybe the most fascinating continent in the world, but it suffers a lot because of poverty. The Blood diamonds from Sierra Leone, the mineral riches robbed from Congo completes the massacre of elephants, and they are also sources of wars and murders. The phenomenon will not stop soon. On the contrary, we can only hope that it will stop before the disappearance of the last African elephant, which would be the end of an era in the history of this planet. 

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