November 29, 2020

Worst year in decades for elephants

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — It’s been a disastrous year for elephants, perhaps the worst since ivory sales were banned in 1989 to save the world’s largest land animals from extinction, the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC said Thursday.

A record number of large seizures of elephant tusks represents at least 2,500 dead animals and shows that organized crime — in particular Asian syndicates — is increasingly involved in the illegal ivory trade and the poaching that feeds it, the group said.

Some of the seised tusks came from old stockpiles, the elephants having been killed years ago. It’s not clear how many elephants were recently killed in Africa for their tusks, but experts are alarmed.

TRAFFIC’s elephant and rhino expert Tom Milliken thinks criminals may have the upper hand in the war to save rare and endangered animals.

“As most large-scale ivory seisures fail to result in any arrests, I fear the criminals are winning,” Milliken told The Associated Press.

Most cases involve ivory being smuggled from Africa into Asia, where growing wealth has fed the desire for ivory ornaments and for rhino horn that is used in traditional medicine, though scientists have proved it has no medicinal value.

“The escalation in ivory trade and elephant and rhino killing is being driven by the Asian syndicates that are now firmly enmeshed within African societies,” Milliken said in a telephone interview from his base in Zimbabwe.

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