Africa’s elephants are again under siege. The eradication of elephants for “white gold” or ivory as it is commonly called, has increased dramatically since conflict within Africa has risen. Poaching is not just a simple affair anymore. Fast track to 2012, poaching has a reached a completely new level, military helicopters and shooting precision has joined the arsenal for white gold.
In early April, park rangers from Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo spotted a low flying Ugandan military helicopter on an unauthorised flight plan within the park. Upon detection the helicopter turned around and flew away. What the rangers later found though, were the carcasses of 22 elephants including several young clumped together killed with a single bullet to the head, all for ivory.
The new drive for the demand in ivory are very closely linked to economic, political and cultural reasons. Elephants are now being picked off by armed groups such as the Lord’s resistance Army, the Shabab, and the Janjaweed. The sky high prices for ivory has made poaching a very profitable business, especially for those who wish to fund their military campaigns of rape, dictatorship and murder. The demand for ivory has also increased due to the economic boom in China resulting in a rising wealthy class who want to display their wealth with the rarest of riches. An estimated 70% of a majority of illegal ivory is believed to be entering China. Disregard for conservation efforts in order to have a taste of a luxury has led to more than 150 Chinese nationals being arrested across Africa for ivory smuggling.
The demand for ivory will not go down unless a major shift in the upper middle class of China occurs. The battle between park rangers and poachers have also turned even so bloody it could begin to become its own war. Rangers carry various firearms with them in anticipation of a shoot off. NGO’s aimed at conservation of the elephants have also begun to invest in military gear such as night vision goggles, flak jackets and machine guns to name a few. Rangers must also face threats at home from poachers, many having to endure the threat of their children being kidnapped.
A full circle of violence can be found here, again for the sake of money alone. The murder of elephants result in a steady flow of money for militants who then continue pilfering, murdering and raping their own people. Local military support for conservationists in Africa for this cause are also useless because they will most likely be working alongside a militant group after some ivory. This issue does not end in Africa, but begins for the world. US tax payers money are probably fueling the purchasing of equipment for poaching leading to more money entering funds that will fuel more violence. If the demand ceases or is siphoned off then the issue is resolved, though that stands alone with the education of Chinese people and what is going on the rest of the world. US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton is addressing this issue and bringing it to the attention of the Chinese government although they continue to show no interest in what is happening in Africa. Why bother continuing this bloody trade if it will continue the history of a land marred by blood and war?