Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gabon Burns Ivory Stocks in Protest Against Elephant Poaching

Gabon has become the second African country to burn ivory stocks in response that poaching will not be tolerated.

In 1989, Kenya became famous for burning a massive pile of elephant tusks indicating that it will not tolerate the trade of illegal ivory trade. Now, that idea has recently been implemented in Gabon making it the fist Central African country to show support for the fight against the ongoing threat. The move was applauded by many conservation groups, including TRAFFIC, which stated that it was intended to prevent the government's ivory stocks which were thought to have been acquired through police seizures from falling into the wrong hands. According to TRAFFIC's Tom Milliken, seized ivory had been continuously going back to the illegal ivory trade because of corrupt government officials. Therefore, the nation had to come up with a solution which was simply to burn the contraband. Mr. Milliken further added that Central Africa needs ivory stock management systems, so that government-seized ivory does not fall again into the trade. In addition to Gabon, Mozambique and Zambia also had some of their government ivory stocks stolen earlier this year. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) stated that 2011 was the worst year for elephant poaching in the last ten years. Researchers estimate that as many as 12,000 elephants- both bush and forest - are killed for their tusks. Earlier this year, more than 400 forest elephants were brutally slaughtered in a remote national park in Cameroon by poachers on horseback. In response, rights groups stated that they were using loans from ivory sales to finance operations by a small-scale militia in Chad. According to Stefanie Conrad of WWF's Central Africa Office, the act of burning ivory was symbolic in a region where thick forests make wildlife monitoring difficult.
Anthropologist Gustave Mabaze of WWF Gabon holds up an ivory tusk.

I'm also very proud to see what message Gabon gave as part of its effort to combat the illegal ivory trade in Central Africa. However, I also feel that just burning government-seized ivory will not prevent the poachers from carrying out their evil deeds. There also has to be a community outreach program, in order to educate the public about the dangers of poaching and encourage the local communities to help out in the battle against this ongoing threat. Furthermore, I also feel that programs to help people find alternative jobs to selling ivory and other animal products should be implemented in the region where unemployment rates remain high. With nearly 85 percent of land covered in forest and large populations of chimpanzees, hippos, and about 1,500 elephants, Gabon stands out as one of the best places in wildlife preservation. Unfortunately, like many of its neighbors, Gabon is prone to poaching and illegal wildlife trade. This is why it is crucial to help out in an effort to put a stop to these threats, battle corruption, and help the local communities find alternative methods to their livelihoods which do not consist of making use of the wildlife.

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