Stop the slaughter of African wildlife

February 5, 2015
Ivory-seeking poachers have killed 100,000 African elephants in just three years.

Elephants, rhinoceroses and lions are being killed in Africa in record numbers. Despite the work of authorities to stop the practice of poaching, 1020 rhinos were poached in South Africa last year. The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa says only 344 arrests were made that year. At the same time, more lions were killed in South Africa than rhinos. At this rate, lions will be extinct in the wild in less than 20 years.

Ivory-seeking poachers also killed 100,000 African elephants in just three years. The elephant population in Central Africa has declined by 64% in a decade. Elephants are killed for their tusks. The demand for ivory, most notably in China and elsewhere in Asia, keeps black market prices high in Africa.

Poachers have also committed mass killings. This included the 2012 slaughter of hundreds of elephants with automatic weapons in Bouba Ndjidah National Park in Cameroon. Poisoned arrows have also been used to kill important individual elephants. A poison-tipped arrow killed Torn Ear, a famous Kenyan elephant and three months later, Satao, another of Kenya’s most beloved elephants, was killed in the same manner. To remove his huge tusks, the poachers cut off his face.

South Africa is home to about 80% of the world’s rhino population, estimated to be about 25,000, but alarming poaching rates are threatening the endangered species. Rhinos are killed for their horns. The horns cost as much as gold by weight on the black market because in Asia the horns are seen as a symbol of prestige. People also falsely believe the pulverised horns have medicinal effects. In fact, the horns are made of keratin, which also makes up hair and fingernails.

While the number of wild lions in Africa is rapidly falling, the killing of tamed lions, known as “canned hunting”, is a growing, uncontrolled industry. Canned hunting is a hunt in which an animal is kept in a confined area, such as in a fenced-in area, making it easier for the hunter to kill and almost impossible for the animal to avoid being killed.

The industry begins with the breeding of lions in captivity — the original parents being poached from the wild. The cubs are used in the petting industry before being sold off.

Awareness is growing globally. About 300 people rallied against animal slaughter in Melbourne on October 4 last year — World Animal Rights Day. The rally was held in 133 other cities around the world, including Adelaide, Ballarat, Brisbane and Perth. In New Zealand rallies took place in Auckland and Wellington.

It was part of a world-wide campaign against the hunting, killing and abuse of these animals. It was the largest march ever to be staged for any animal in the world.

Dianna Moodley, organiser of the Melbourne protest, said more than 35,000 elephants were being killed every year so that their tusks could be carved into ivory trinkets.

These animals’ only hope for survival would be the immediate end of both the “legal” and “illegal” ivory and rhino horn trade. And they would need time to recover from decades of mass slaughter.According to Sebnem Denktas in Especially Africa, wildlife crime is estimated to be worth $20 billion a year. The problem has become a global one, as trans-national criminal networks and heavily armed poaching gangs coordinate the bloody chain — from killing the animals, to smuggling their body parts for export, to selling them in outlets all over the world.

Australia has recently banned all trophy imports of rhino horn and lion body parts and is working on legislation to ban other animal body part imports. Moodley is hopeful that these animals can be saved from extinction. More animals are being killed than the number born.

She said Australians can pass on their knowledge and information on this crisis to as many people as possible. When going on holiday, make sure that you research animal sanctuaries and zoos and their treatment of animals before visiting them.

As a tourist, do not ride elephants, as this feeds this industry, which is very cruel in its treatment of elephants. Baby elephants are often stolen from their mothers, beaten and starved to break their spirit and chained with bull hooks so that they can be used in the tourist market for elephant rides and in circuses.

Moodley also suggests writing letters to your MP and speaking out against the cruelty to animals and their use in circuses. Do not buy ivory jewellery or fur accessories. Help animal rights organisations with fundraising, awareness and getting the word out that we have had enough of cruelty to animals.

This fight has already pushed politicians to review legislation dealing with trophy hunting and imports into Australia. People are being made aware of the exploitation of young Australian volunteers, who pay huge amounts of money to travel to South Africa and work in so-called animal sanctuaries. They think they are helping the conservation of these lions but are instead being used to fund the canned hunting industry.

The campaign calls for legislation to ban all imports of animal body parts as trophies into Australia. It aims to expose canned hunting and the exploitation of young Australians and that the money made from the illicit trade in ivory and rhino horn supports terrorist organisations in Africa and fuels civil strife and instability.

The campaigners want the Australian government to put pressure on countries — such as China, Vietnam and Thailand which are the largest ivory and rhino horn consumers — to end this slaughter and educate their people that ivory belongs to elephants and that no one else needs a rhino horn but a rhino.

On March 14, major cities around the world, including Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, will hold rallies to raise awareness about the plight of South Africa's lions and the "canned hunting" industry.

[For more information on the march visit Global March for Lions on Facebook or their website.

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