Elephants worth much, much more alive than dead, says new report

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Elephants are worth 76 times more when they’re alive than dead, according to a new analysis released this past weekend. The report follows on the heels of findings by WWF that the world has lost 50 percent of its wildlife over the past 40 years, with more than half of African elephants killed for ivory in just one decade.

The analysis, conducted through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s iworry campaign, compared the value of elephants to local economies to profits netted through the illegal . Between January and August 2014, researchers tallied approximately 17.8 metric tons of ivory seized worldwide, harvested from 1,940 poached elephants. Most of these seizures occurred in Kenya, , China, and , countries identified by CITES as doing relatively little to stem the tide of black-market ivory.

In their report, iworry estimated the raw-ivory value of a poached to be $21,000. In contrast, a living is worth more than $1.6 million over its lifetime, largely because of its eco-tourism draw. The report lists travel companies, airlines, and local economies as benefitting from this largess of the world’s largest land mammal, whereas the ivory trade may fund criminal and terrorist groups.

 Anti-Poaching Teams with seized ivory. Photo courtesy of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Anti- Teams with seized ivory. Photo courtesy of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

“The value of elephant tourism is extremely high, with a living elephant worth a shocking 76 times more alive in the savannah than in the market place,” said Rob Brandford, iworryc ampaign director. “Protecting Africa’s elephants makes monetary sense and in the long term elephants are worth more alive roaming the world’s savannah and forests than their tusks are sitting on a mantle. That’s a powerful argument to convince policy makers.”

Family of 11 poached elephant carcasses, Tsavo Jan 2013. In Tsavo, favor silent methods of poaching including spears and poisoned arrows. Photo courtesy of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

The seizure of 17.8 metric tons of ivory is likely just a drop in the bucket. The report states that developed countries intercept only about 10 percent of contraband good such as ivory, meaning that up to 178 tons of ivory may have been trafficked this year—the result of 19,400 elephants killed.

An arrow recovered from an elephant targeted by poachers. Photo courtesy of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Before the advent of plastic, ivory was commonly used to make cutlery handles, piano keys, and other consumer goods with. While some of the global demand for ivory was satiated with the dug-up tusks of extinct mammoths, more often it was sourced from living animals. Numbering between three and five million in the 1930s and 1940s, global ivory demands for consumer goods decimated African elephants (genus Loxodonta) throughout Africa, with the continent’s entire population halved during just the 1980s. Some populations of elephant have declined more than others, with Chad’s elephants declining from 400,000 in 1970 to 10,000 in 2006—or more than 97 percent.

An elephant is treated for poaching wounds. Photo courtesy of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

In response to the massive decline, CITES banned international trade in ivory in 1989, eliminating major ivory markets and slowing decline. However, declines still continue, and scientists estimate 23,000 African elephants were killed for their tusks in 2013 alone. The driving force behind the killings is high demand from East Asian countries, such as China.

The report’s authors hope its findings spur action and provide added incentives for elephant protection.

“These findings aren’t definitive but they are shocking and make it clearer than ever that we must recognize the value of our wildlife and environmental heritage in order to pass policies that safeguard against their destruction,” Brandford said. “Referring to wild animals as economic commodities has created controversy in the past but where policy is determined by the value of an object, it’s time to give the elephant a fair footing.”

Ivory stockpile recovered from poached elephants. Photo courtesy of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

According to the report, the of elephants so far this year has amounted to an economic loss of more than $44.5 million.

“In order to secure the long term future of the species, it is vital Governments understand the tangible benefits elephants can bring,” Brandford said. “Given the overlap of ivory poaching locations and elephant tourism operations, every elephant killed makes these regions much less profitable.”

Orphaned elephants cared for at an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo courtesy of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

This article was first published by Mongabay.com on 06 Oct 2014.

Supertrooper

Supertrooper

Founder and Executive Editor

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Ruth Jacob

I sympathize wtih what you're saying. The trouble is that if you took the elephants out of Africa, all the other species that benefit from them would lose that benefit. Of course, that will happen if the elephants go extinct, too.


Indra Rajapakse
Indra Rajapakse

Elephants as families are the sweetest animals put on this earth.At the s

Indra Rajapakse
Indra Rajapakse

I agree with Mark McCandish.

Paul Seligman
Paul Seligman

Not sure the argument is thought through. Tourists are happy to see a few dozen elehants, say,and don’t care what happened to the others. Whereas every dead elephant has a monetary value. Keeping some elephants alive for tourism has a value, but not necessarily large numbers. And poachers don’t care about possible eco-tourism value.

I’m not saying we should allow elephants to be killed, except where populations have reached excessive levels, but we need to enhance the argument or find other ways to combat poaching.

Indra Rajapakse
Indra Rajapakse

How about killing humans too because populations are rising ,specially those who kill for ivory ?I would rather have more elephants on this earth than greedy humans who go massacring them for easy cash.

Susan Frudd

Certainly drastic action needs to be taken and of course that requires money. You should be ashamed Africa standing by while the wildlife you are fortunate to have in your country is poached or killed to fund extremists. Save these beautiful animals.

Peter Deelen
Peter Deelen

Dat volk deugd niet ze zijn de schuim van de aarde die om niks en niemand iets geeft, ik hoop dat ze hun straf niet ontlopen !!!!!!

LoveYourDNA
LoveYourDNA

Asians don’t want to visit elephants, only use up their ivory…

Indra Rajapakse
Indra Rajapakse

What Asians are you talking about?Do not paint all Asians with the same brush.Your statement is very foolish.Asia is a huge continent.So choose your words carefully please.Thank you!

LoveYourDNA
LoveYourDNA

I’m not but you know exactly what I mean. They are the #1 users of ivory. They should just start using science to create it now. That would make sense.

Indra Rajapakse
Indra Rajapakse

As far as I know Bone and Ivory are Calcium compounds which can be easily synthesised.I do not think the users of ivory will be happy to comply, just like with natural fur and synthetic fur.The reason is # Ignorance.

LoveYourDNA
LoveYourDNA

Bone and calcium have DNA signatures and one day we can create things using this. Just not yet. OR we can clone animals.

Indra Rajapakse
Indra Rajapakse

I like your ideas but cloning means you have to kill the cloned animals for the ivory,don’t you think?

LoveYourDNA
LoveYourDNA

Not if it’s taken by a naturally deceased animal.

Walter Botteldoorne
Walter Botteldoorne

DIEREN DIE AAN HET UITSTERVEN ZIJN ? NOG PER HELICOPTER NAJAGEN , EN DE ZO GEZEGDE PARKWACHTERS PIKKEN MAARAL TE GRAAG EEN GRAANTJE MEE !!

Mark McCandlish

Over 23,000 Elephants in one YEAR? And we know that some of that slaughter to harvest ivory goes to support Islamic Extremists and terrorism. Okay- that does it. I'm now convinced that the nations of Africa are incapable of protecting their own prized wildlife and I think that every Elephant on that continent should be confiscated and moved to the United States. We have areas of a similar climate and certainly some great "philanthropist" like Bill Gates or Ted Turner could buy the land and pay for the air/sea transport of all these creatures. AFRICA, YOU DO NOT DESERVE YOUR… Read more »