Evidence gathered from recent major ivory seizures shows conclusively that the ivory is not coming from a broad geographic area but rather that hunters are targeting specific herds. With such information, Wasser said, authorities can beef up enforcement efforts and focus them in specific areas where poaching is known to occur as a means of preventing elephants from being killed. But that will only happen if there is sufficient public pressure to marshal funding for a much larger international effort to halt the poaching.
In 1989, most international ivory trade was banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (http://www.cites.org/), which regulates trade in threatened and endangered species. The restrictions banned ivory trade except for ivory from elephants that nations legally culled from their herds or those that died naturally.
At the time the treaty was enacted, poachers were killing an average of 70,000 elephants a year. The ban instigated much stronger enforcement efforts, nearly halting poaching almost immediately. However, that sense of success resulted in waning enforcement. Western aid was withdrawn four years after the ban was enacted and poaching gradually increased to the current alarming rates, Wasser said.
"The situation is worse than ever before and the public is unaware," he said, "It's very serious because elephants are an incredibly important species. They keep habitats open so other species that depend on such ecosystems can use them. Without elephants, there will be major habitat changes, with negative effects on the many species that depend on the lost habitat.
"Elephants also are a major part of ecotourism, which is an important s
|Contact: Vince Stricherz|
University of Washington