Last month TakePart reported on some revolutionary new tactics that will be implemented in order to hinder the proliferation of the very lucrative poaching industry. Those efforts can’t come fast enough; this week, another massive shipment of blood ivory was discovered in Hong Kong, the shipping port’s third finding of illegal ivory in as many months.
According to Sky News, this week customs agents discovered 779 elephant tusks hidden in the false bottoms of shipping crates, marked as “archaeological stones.” Worth about $1.5 million, this massive shipment from Kenya represents at least 389 elephant deaths, but doesn’t even qualify as the largest the port has seen in recent months.
Two previous shipments recently discovered were actually substantially larger, with the biggest topping out at four tons of elephant tusks, worth about $3.4 million. That was just in November.
Hong Kong’s port is a popular through-way for the poaching trade because it serves as the hub for Asian markets, where the demand for ivory is at the world’s highest. The tusks are not only used to make jewelry, but also trinkets and religious icons for the Chinese, Japanese and Thai markets.
The poaching industry has recently exceeded record levels with animals like elephants, tigers and rhinos being slaughtered by the hundreds across continents. The kill-methods represent a level of cruelty that’s so barbaric it seems the stuff of fictional villains. Nonetheless, knowledge of the industry's brutality does nothing to dampen sales. Activists estimate about $10 billion a year is made from poaching’s international black market.
According to National Geographic, these recently uncovered shipments of elephant tusks just scratch the surface of the damage caused by poaching in the last 12 months.
In 2012, 600 rhinos were killed in South Africa, their horns hacked off while they were still alive. “Hundreds of thousands” of African grey parrots were shipped off for sale. Less than 300 Sumatran rhinos are left and only four northern white rhinos remain in captivity. Every year, approximately 25,000 elephants are killed for their tusks, accounting for their disappearance from the African and Asian plains.
The magazine reports that China’s recent stronghold in Africa is fueling a resurgence in the poaching industry. The country’s presence there, where it funds roads, dams, and municipal buildings, makes it a major player on the continent, giving it the power and access to easily extract the illegal goods and ship them home.
As activist Steve Boyes wrote in his National Geographic piece on the subject, “We are standing on the precipice of a mass extinction and Africa is just about to be lost forever.”
In the meantime, the World Wildlife Fund, in partnership with Google, is trying launch the wide-scale implementation of drone technology, which will covertly monitor poachers’ activity from hundreds of feet in the air. The secret system would alert ground crews of oncoming danger and send them in to areas where poachers are detected. Part of the initiative also includes research into DNA tracing capabilities, allowing authorities to definitively trace poached animal parts.
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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com