Scientific American recently published an article that describes how current rates of poaching could completely wipe out the African elephant population, reported Salon.
Every year, thousands of elephants are killed for their tusks, about 100,000 over the last three years. According to the report, money generated through the illegal ivory trade funds terrorism, among many other criminal operations. Since 2010, African elephant populations have decreased by two percent annually.
Since 2008, Salon reported, poaching rates having increased, and 40,000 elephants died from illegal tusk harvesting in 2011. Kenyan elephant death rates were found to reflect the price of ivory on the black market, “suggesting that as ivory gets more expensive, more elephants will be killed for their ivory.”
The central African forest elephant has suffered the greatest loss as 60 percent of the population has been eradicated in the last 12 years.
However, despite these massive losses, more stringent international laws designed to rein in illegal poaching and the black market ivory trade have been put in place. Kenyan poaching rates have slightly decreased since 2011, the year that China placed restrictions on ivory auctions. China imports the highest amount of the world’s illegal ivory; the United States is second.
Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service destroyed six tons of ivory obtained from customs seizures and criminal investigations. That same year, the Obama administration announced the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, effectively banning commercial trading and the domestic sale of non-antique ivory.
Although measures have been put in place, more needs to be done to protect these animals. If not, the senseless slaughter of the world’s elephant population will spread, and yet another species will become needlessly extinct.