By Juan Hernandez
Between 1979 and 1989, the international increase for the demand of ivory from animal tusks caused elephant populations to dramatically decline, mostly due to the resulting poaching and trafficking of elephants. In particular, Africa’s elephant population was cut in half. They are vulnerable because they have the largest ivory tusks among animals.
Savannah elephants lost more of their population than any other elephants living anywhere else in the world. In 1977, about 1.3 million elephants lived in Africa’s savannas, but due to the increase in the ivory trade, by 1997, only about 600,000 elephants remained. Over the past three years 100,000 elephants have been poached.
Even though there has been a ban on international ivory sales [1990 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)], the elephant population continues to decline, mostly due to the ivory market in Asia. Ivory is used for medicinal or spiritual reasons in Asia. Ivory is also used for art and jewelry in other countries such as the U.S. Poaching of elephants remains a major environmental and wildlife problem. Raising awareness of the issue can possibly help before it is too late, and elephants end up extinct.
Juan Hernandez is a student in the International Crime and Justice (ICJ) Masters program. He previously earned a BA in International Criminal Justice. During his undergraduate and graduate careers he has focused on wildlife poaching and trafficking of endangered species.