Tag Archives: ivory

Media coverage ivory trade and poaching

Twenty years after the international trade in ivory was banned, many of you have read that there is a new boom in the killing of elephants for their tusks. This development is a critical threat to the future of elephants, and we and many others work hard to try to convince CITES that they should reject proposals from Tanzania and Zambia that we believe will further stimulate the trade in ivory and poaching.

We continue to update links to global media coverage related to the ivory trade and poaching on ElephantVoices, and you will also find updates and comments on ElephantVoices on Facebook.

Ivory burning in Kenya 1991. Copyright: ElephantVoices

From the ivory burning in Nairobi National Park in July 1991 - 6.8 tonnes were set on fire to give the signal to the world that protecting elephants are more important than short term monetary gain. Copyright: ElephantVoices

Meeting Mr. Nick

Mr. Nick listening - 52 year old Amboseli maleMr. Nick, or M86 (Male 86), was so-named for the enormous number of nicks and tears in his ears. He has what we call ”ragged” ears. In fact, his ears are just about as ragged as they get. I named Mr Nick back in 1976, when he and I were both 20 years old – young, for both of us. I was fully grown, still in college, and just starting to study musth in male elephants. He had left his family a few years earlier and though bigger than all of the adult females, he was a pipsqueak compared to the oldest males. We have grown older together, though Mr. Nick, at age 52, could still be said to be in his reproductive prime, while I cannot.

Amboseli is one of the few places where you can still see old males and Mr. Nick has been fortunate to live as long as he has. Male elephants reach their reproductive prime between 45 and 50 years old, but few males live long enough to reproduce, let along to reach their prime. Life expectancy for male elephants in Amboseli is only 24 years. If you discount death inflicted by people, life expectancy increases to 39 years. You may be surprised to learn that in safe Amboseli people have such an influence on the survival of elephants.

Mr. Nick, musth rumbleElsewhere the impact on elephant mortality is even greater, especially in areas where human-elephant conflict is intense, where there is poaching for ivory, or where trophy hunting is permitted. The tusks of a 50-year old male are seven times as heavy as those of a female of the same age, so sport hunters and poachers, alike, target older males. Trophy hunters used to argue that older males were”reproductively senile,” and, therefore, expendable, but my early work on musth and male mating success debunked that argument. And in a recent genetic paternity study we showed that fully 80% of calves are fathered by older musth males.

Long-term scientific work, like that carried out in Amboseli, is important because it provides essential arguments for conserving and properly managing elephants. Older males are vital to the survival and healthy functioning of elephant populations and trophy hunting and ivory poaching can inflict harm lasting decades.

Joyce, photos Petter