An investigation into the ivory trade has revealed shocking links with militias and terrorist groups in Sudan. National Geographic’s Bryan Christy decided to take a closer look at the brutal practise responsible for the dwindling elephant population.
In Central Africa, the elephant population has dropped by as much as 64% in just 10 years. If this current rate continues, experts have estimated that these magnificent giants will be extinct in the wild in a few decades.
For his investigation into the ivory trade, Bryan Christy decided to embed fake tusks with GPS tracking devices in a black market in the Central African Republic. However, in order for this plan to work, he needed to obtain counterfeit tusks that were so convincing even an ivory trader would have difficulty telling the difference.
As a result, George Dante, the “Michelangelo of taxidermy” according to Christy, produced copies that looked, felt, and even sounded like the real thing.
The counterfeit tusks were first put to the test at an airport in Tanzania. As expected, Dante’s tusks fooled authorities and Christy was detained on suspicion of ivory smuggling. After having explained his intentions and the true nature of the tusks, Christy was left to continue his investigation.
Naturally, when it came to tracking the tusks, Christy expected them to travel east towards China, the world’s top buyer of illegal ivory and where. “A pair of ivory chopsticks can bring more than a thousand dollars, and carved tusks sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars,” writes Christy.
However, much to Christy’s surprise, the GPS tracked the tusks north into the terrorist-controlled regions of Sudan.
“[I]n central Africa, as I learned firsthand, something more sinister is driving the killing: Militias and terrorist groups funded in part by ivory are poaching elephants, often outside their home countries, and even hiding inside national parks. They’re looting communities, enslaving people, and killing park rangers who get in their way.” — Bryan Christy, National Geographic
This discovery revealed that the ivory trade—with all its barbaric brutality—is funding violence led by terrorist warlords. The majestic elephant is being mercilessly butchered, their population depleted, and at what cost? To put it simply, the ivory trade is endangering the lives of both elephants and humans.
Whist elephants lives are at mercy of the demand for their tusks and the poachers who hunt them, innocent human lives are put at the mercy of terrorists.
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