UK makes a respected decision to ban ivory sales, but not other body parts

At various times over the last century, the elephant population has been decimated. Between 1979 and 1989 the elephant population halved. Even recently, between 2007 -2014 30% of Africa elephants were lost.

Yet this is only the top of the iceberg. In 1930 there were an estimated 10,000,000 African elephants roaming the continent -today just 415,000 remain 96% decline. That means a sustained loss of almost 1%a year for almost a century.

Bbc photo of a group of elephants killed by Poachers

Now, there is another problem with this. These elephants belong to 2 species, the African forest elephant and the African Bush (or Savannah elephant). It is estimated just 40,000-50,000 African forest elephants remain; and it has to be remembered that the differences between the African forest and Savannah elephants are not small – they are not sub species, they are separate species.

The African forest elephant, overlooked by poachers for a long time, had had precipitous collapse in numbers, from over 700,000 to likely under 100,000. More than half of the remaining population lives in Gabon – which makes them susceptable to any change in policy in this small African country.

All this, is a rather long winded way to say that African elephants have suffered over the last century.

The British government has banned the import of ivory. Now they are closing the loophole, by banning other body parts from elephants – why stop ivory import, if the elephant will be driven to extinction for is ears or feet anyway.

Now, it is true that there is some legal hunting. In some places this does make sense, and I would suggest rules to allow import from these places – however these are few and far between, and many are not currently healthy enough to allow hunting. I am thinking of places like the Selous – 20,000 square miles. At one point housing more than 110,000 elephants, successive round of devestating poaching has reduced that to 10,000 or less.

While a take of 50-100 (even 500) from 110,000 is a founding error, this big a take from 10,000 is quite different. In a healthy ecosystem, this take of 1% or less would be fine, but it is likely that animals are still being lost to the poachers. Furthermore, given such a precipitous decline much of the population knowledge will have been lost – making survival through tough times far harder already.

My feeling, is that hunting should only happen if there is no other option. Sure, a hunted elephant brings in a lot of money, however, the Selous could support a vast photographic Safari destination, if the tsetse fly could be eliminated. This would give well passing jobs to the many poor communities living around it’s fringes. Certainly, I would argue with Africa has no need to trophy hunting of elephants, or most other species – never mind the fact that someone going on a canned lion hunt does not risk his life, and is guaranteed to kill. Essentially a canned lion hunt, is killing an animal in a large zoo.

UK has once again delayed its ban on Ivory sales

To much fanfare, the British government decided to ban the sale of Ivory 3 years ago. This is certainly a good thing. Unfortunately, they have just delayed its introduction again – and we are already 3 years after this law was supposed to come into effect. Admittedly, this time the delay is only supposed to be for 2 months, but it sends the wrong message.

Forest and Savannah elephant populations across west and east Africa have been decimated over the last decade or two.

Ivory trade is (most of us will be surprised to hear) is still going in the UK, Will lord Goldsmith keep to his promise this year? And how many elephants will die before he does – in the hope of adding ivory to our trade?

Ministers claim that background work has not been carried out, but given they have had 3 years this is inexcusable. Someone should be fired for this.

At the moment elephants are being killed at the rate of one every 15-25 minutes or 50-100 a day. The UK is the largest exporter of Ivory. Also much ivory from recently poached animals is passed off as antique – avoiding the rules.

The EU is now considering acting on this pressing issue. Our original advance has been destroyed, and we now look like we are incompetent.

It is currently down to issues creating the technical standards for exempting legal ivory.

My proposal would be to ban all ivory sale until this system was in place. This would put pressure on people to finish it quickly (and I would be surprised if it wasn’t solved very fast).

Lord Goldsmith wrote in a letter that he committed to enacting the bill by the end of 2022, though similar things were said 3 years ago.

Elephant counting from space

For the first time the population of elephants in addo elephant park in South Africa has been counted from space using computer learning.

Counting elephants from space is increasingly possible. Why is this good? it can be done cheaply, and therefore can be done regularly. This allows remote reserve poaching epidemics to be noticed early. As elephants are often the first animal to be targeted, automated satellite counts could give early warning about parks in danger.

The satellite images now taken are detailed enough to show each individual elephant has a separate grey blob. Then by using computer learning, a program can be taught to count these accurately.

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