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Will Crushing Ivory Reduce Elephant Poaching?

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Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDEdspace and end it with #DoNowIvory

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Do Now

Do you think destroying trafficked ivory is an effective way to reduce elephant poaching? Why or Why not? What other methods do you think would be effective?

Introduction

Each year, tens of thousands of elephants are being slaughtered due to illegal poaching. Poachers kill elephants for their precious ivory tusks, which are now valued even higher than gold. This past March, over 60 scientists from around the world published a paper titled Devastating Decline of Forest Elephants in Central Africa, which portrays a bleak future for African elephants as a result of this poaching. According to the study, in just nine years the African elephant population has decreased by 62 percent, and African elephants have lost 30 percent of their geographical range. If the current rate of poaching continues, elephants could face extinction in as early as 10 years.

In an effort to save African elephants from possible extinction, the U.S. government is trying to send a message. On November 14, in an event called the Ivory Crush, U.S. officials crushed about six tons of African and Asian elephant ivory. This amount of ivory represents the killing of at least a couple thousand elephants. The goal behind the ivory crush is to demonstrate to poachers that the United States will not tolerate any ivory trafficking. With the help of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the government currently has possession of ivory that was seized from illegal trading over the past 25 years. The ivory destroyed included raw tusks, carved tusks, and other objects made of ivory like smaller carvings and trinkets. The ivory was demolished into pieces small enough to completely depreciate its commercial value.

Resource

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service video Announcement of the U.S. Ivory Crush
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife created this video to announce the Ivory Crush that took place on November 14.


To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #DoNowIvory

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to reply to other people’s tweets to foster more of a conversation. Also, if students tweet their personal opinions, ask them to support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can… and any contribution is most welcomed.


More Resources

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service document U.S. Ivory Crush Questions and Answers
Here’s an FAQ page about the Ivory Crush published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

NPR radio segment Elephant Poaching Pushes Species To Brink Of Extinction
A study of Central African forest elephants found a decline of 62 percent in their population between 2002 and 2011. Although African forest elephants have been in trouble for a while, only recently have scientists discovered that more than half of them died in the past decade, most of them due to poaching.

National Geographic interactive Vanishing Elephants
This infographic shows the change in range of African elephants, estimates of how many elephant deaths are related to poaching and the 10 Asian countries that have had the largest amounts of ivory seized.


KQED Do Now Science is a monthly activity in collaboration with California Academy of Sciences. The Science Do Now is posted every second Tuesday of the month.

This post was contributed by youth from the Spotlight team within The California Academy of Sciences’ Careers in Science Intern Program. CiS is a multi-year, year-round work-based youth development program for young people from groups typically under-represented in the sciences.


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Category: Do Now, Do Now: Science

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The California Academy of Sciences is a leading scientific and cultural institution based in San Francisco. It is home to an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and research and education programs, which engage people of all ages and backgrounds on two of the most important topics of our time: life and its sustainability. Founded in 1853, the Academy’s mission is to explore, explain and sustain life. Visit www.calacademy.org for more information.
  • Tiffany Y.

    I don’t think that destroying ivory trafficking will reduce elephant poaching. It may help a little, but people always find a way to poach them illegally. And if we don’t find a way to catch them, it’s going to occur even more. An alternate way of reducing elephant poaching would maybe be…introducing a different kind of material that does not harm animals? Or maybe have some security patrolling the areas that elephants roam. The elephant population is declining at a very alarming rate, and if we don’t find a solution soon, the population will soon disappear. Only then will the people stop poaching elephants, but maybe they would have moved on to poaching another animal?

  • nick s

    From my perspective crushing ivory will enhance the demand for it, and therefore increase the poaching of elephants. I think a solution for anyone convicted of poaching should face a few years in a low security prison where there aren’t serious criminals, and or a serious fine. Another thing would be to keep a few elephants in captivity so that they can start producing off spring to increase the depleting population. The ivory still on the market should either be donated to wildlife museums and or sold for very high prices to get the pieces off the black market.