Science, Tech & Environment

U.N. allows China to import ivory

NN: I was drawn to Chad by a colleague who found giant herds of elephants. We went there to see elephants and thought poaching was under control. What quickly happened was carcasses started appearing all around us and we found the herd moved, and that night the herd had been ambushed and 20 elephants massacred. That set a tone that we didn't suspect and there's no doubt this stimulation of trade is because of ivory going to China. (Did you encounter poachers?) These guys are on horseback, it's the Janjuweed, the same guys killing people in Darfur and it's just for business. It's an ancient trade: ivory has always gone to Khartoum, and now it's been re-stimulated. It went underground for a while, but now it's re-stimulated. There used to be 200,000 elephants in Chad in the �70s, and now it's down to less than a thousand. (On the ground the elephants are protected in the park, but as soon as they roam outside the park, they're poached.) It's a heroic effort to protect them in the park. But when the rains come they move out and then they're vulnerable. (The ambushers, you say this is an age-old trade, so one would guess the elephants are being killed only for the tusks?) Yes, they're not taking any meat. This is not their livelihood. They trade in cattle and other things, they're evil men. elephants are incredibly sensitive creatures who don't deserve to live in fear. They're afraid to even drink water. This is just a commodity, used for pool tables and piano keys, it has no value in the real world whatsoever. (You saw the results of this in China.) I also did a project on the tiger trade, and that took me to China where I saw carving shops and that stimulates the ivory trade. (How do you know that these traders are not doing this to feed their families?) I'm speaking only about the situation in Chad, but these men are nomadic and leave their families to do this work. These are men for hire, they're gangsters, and it's not like these men are killing animals for their livelihood. This is pure commerce of illegal trade.

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