Sale of southern African ivory begins
Stockpiles of ivory in South Africa have gone on sale in an UN sanctioned auction for the first time since 1999. There are more than 100 tons up for grabs from four southern African countries that will be auctioned until November 6. Originally they were only going to sell 51 tons, but now the number has risen to a lot more.
Just after eBay banned the sale of ivory on their website, this acution has begun in what many environmentalists fear could be the return of the ivory trade. The money raised, which could be in excess of 20 million pounds, should go to elephant conservation projects, but at this point, no one is sure.
The ivory trade was banned in 1989, because poachers were decimating elephant populations.
Seizures of illegal ivory are thought to have fallen after the 1999 sale, suggesting the last official auction drove down prices and made poaching less profitable.
But many conservation groups bitterly oppose it. Will Travers, chief executive officer of the Born Free Foundation, said: "We are deeply concerned that these sales will open the floodgates to additional illegal trade"
He added: "For some inexplicable reason some people think that all elephant populations are adequately protected and thriving. Nothing could be further from the truth.
"For many of the most vulnerable elephant populations across Africa, any increased poaching pressure will almost certainly result in localised extinction in the near future."
Poaching of elephants still continues across Africa, and some countries' populations are suffering more than others.
However African elephants are finding a new enemy on their continent: construction.
The Wildlife Conservation Society and Save the Elephants have conducted a study that finds elephants are so scared to cross roads to get to new habitat, that they are becoming trapped and would rather starve than make it to the other side.
“Forest elephants are basically living in fear of their lives in prisons created by roads. They are roaming around the woods like frightened mice rather than tranquil formidable giants of their forest realm,” said Dr. Stephen Blake, the study’s lead author.
They fear the poachers that travel on the roads, not necessarily the roads themselves.
The researchers tracked 28 elephants in six different areas in the Republic of Congo and Gabonwith. Using GPS systems they followed the elephants, finding that only one was brave enough to cross a road—and even then, the elephant ran at 14 times its normal speed.
Road construction is not slowing down in central Africa however, but with some forward planning, the researchers feel that this problem for the elephants could be avoided. However, whether or not they are going to be taken into consideration remains to be seen.