It is 01:55; I am just waking up after receiving a message on Facebook. It does not matter who it was from, it is about the message. The initial message was about doing something to save the elephants. They are expected to go extinct in 2030. This is not a good thing, yet when I looked at the message and then took another look, certain issues came up in my mind.
The article does all the marketing we would expect. Elements of corruption in Thailand from officials trying to keep it all quiet and so on. We have all heard it before! The picture is interesting as it show an African elephant with three Africans in it, so there is already that too.
The next feed I see (not send to me) is some article on how the Republican Party is trying to block new restrictions on the ivory trade, so what is ACTUALLY going on?
First things first! I am all for keeping all elephants (African and Indian) safe. This is not going to happen, for the very simple reason that until someone changes the approach on poachers, this will continue. In my view, detecting and hunting and trying to arrest these people will NEVER work! I see these poachers as ‘terrorists’ against life and against the natural balance. They were not alone. In the days of Queen Victoria, the rich and those who imagined themselves ‘mighty’, were all about shooting ‘big game’ in Africa. Opposing the entire pragmatic view on life, not unlike the white settlers in the USA with their buffalo, for greed and ego and so on, massive amounts of lives were needlessly lost. Those acts unhinged the balance that African and Asian tribes had with their natural environment. Now, some are driven to poaching, and I cannot condone it because this is all done for money, not for meat or survival. In my mind the only solution is to set out hunting parties and hunt down these poachers down with deadly efficiency, no arrests!
The hunters become the hunted and as such, the elephant might end up having a slightly longer life, yet for generations to come the elephants remain in danger of extinction.
Why this ‘extreme’ view?
It is pure pragmatism; shouting and sanctions will not work. If you think that this does, then take a look at Cuba, it is still there after 5 decades of ‘sanctions’, the sanctions are not working and if the calculations that some are publishing are correct, it means that he elephant will be extinct long before any form of sanction became successful, making it a useless strategy.
Now we get to the juicy part. The Republican Party, what is exactly going on? This is the part I do not know and for the most, I could not find anything from a substantial source. There was an article on WKRN, which is a Tennessee station, but that is about it. The summon here is that the Republican representative is stating that it is harder to differentiate between legal and illegal items, and these restrictions would make the owner of legal ivory items, as is seen in old piano’s, recycled ivory in the handles of guns and knives as well as the owners of many violin bows (which apparently also contains ivory), overnight criminals, their items, if need be, confiscated and their value reduced to zero. They have a point here, the biggest issue as I see it would be to keep people with legitimate items out of harm’s way, which makes the restrictions longwinded and in the end useless. So, there is a point, the part that I found interesting is that the article by the WWF, stating that it is the last chance for Thailand to tackle the illegal Ivory trade. I found it interesting that the newspapers were not all over the internet with this, then in the article I read is that the deadline is March 2015, so why was I woken up with this?
The answer is that this seems a long time to stem illegal trade, more than enough for some people to truly fill their pockets, which is what it seems to me. The article from the WWF, was however quite illuminating. The issue is not the legal domestic trade, which is an issue as Thailand depends on this commerce, it is that African Elephant ivory is smuggled into Thailand and these tusks become ‘legally valid’ commercial items and as such, according to figures 20,000 elephants, or better stated their 40,000 tusks make it to the souvenir shops, in many small ways.
So this is all about African tusks. I think it would have been nice to see such articles more prominently in several newspapers, but in the end, some X-Factor story will probably take centre page in such times.
What to do?
The important part is visibility and justice of exposure. Let’s not forget that there is an issue with the WWF part on the entire ivory issue. The WWF wants to put pressure somewhere, which is fair enough, but why Thailand? It seems to have a ‘valid’ (from what I read) ivory trade. The issue should not be with Thailand, but with the African source. The fact that hundreds, if not thousands of tusks per trip make it to Thailand should be the issue. We can clearly assume that it involves something massively larger than a dinghy, which means a corrupt crew for sure, and likely a corrupt captain too. So, while it is taking days to cross the Indian Ocean, perhaps getting better Intel on who and how should be the issue, if the numbers of 20,000 elephants a year is true, then this would take a massive amount of space, or many trips (a very regular schedule). Now, it is not that clean cut (or clear cut for that matter), so there are more sides and let’s not forget, with this amount of ivory, someone’s pockets are getting lined with $$$$.
In the end, we all agree, something will have to be done. The question remains, with these levels of extinction, how far are we willing to go? If the survival of the elephant is in such a critical stage, then sanctions will no longer be enough. There is also no question that it takes someone smarter than me (and someone who is better at hunting poachers then me) to solve the issue. Whoever gets the job, we should consider how extreme the handed mandate needs to become, because 15 years is not a long time. It implies that one of the most impressive land creatures on this earth will become extinct during the watch of the current generation.