The history of elephant poaching maps a bloody path that spans centuries, all the way to antiquity, when ivory was an incredibly sought after material that was frequently traded across the Silk Road. Elephants have always been an important source for ivory and, during the late 1900’s, uncontrolled elephant poaching pushed the species to the brink of extinction, resulting in a number of game reserves emerging as a means to protect the endangered creature. At sites like Addo Elephant Park, accommodation is available for those interested in catching a glimpse of these mammoth mammals, now thankfully thriving in their protected habitat. It is estimated that up to 8% of elephants worldwide are victims of poaching every year. That’s a staggering 36 000 elephants that are gruesomely slaughtered annually. Poachers shoot them with automatic rifles and proceed to hack off their tusks in the most brutal fashion; all for the lucrative “white gold” which sustains the illegal ivory trade. Over the last five decades a concerted effort has been made by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and other organisations, to curb the horrifying history of elephant poaching. However, poaching continues to thrive in some parts of the world. A brief timeline of elephant poaching reveals the following:
- 1979 â€“ 1989: The African elephant population massively declined in numbers from 1.3 million to 600 000.
- 1989: CITES issued an international ban on ivory trading. European and American markets closed due to the crash in the price of ivory. A collection of African countries tried to resist this ban.
- 1997 â€“ 1999: In 1997, CITES approved the sales of tonnes of ivory from Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to Japan, which reignited illegal poaching. From 1998 â€“ 1999 an estimated 6 000 elephants were killed and 17 000kg of ivory was seized by customs.
- 2000: CITES issued an insistent ban on the trade of ivory.
- 2007: Some African countries were permitted to sell up to 110 tonnes of ivory stockpiles.
Since the ban came into force, illegal poaching in Africa has dropped considerably which afforded some elephant populations the opportunity to recover. Although poaching continues to be a problem, there are a number of sanctuaries which fiercely protect these precious animals and offer people the opportunity to view them in their natural environment. Addo accommodation is one such option, hosting one of the largest elephant populations in the world.
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