African governments and international animal rights organizations argue that the Chinese luxury consumers' desire for ivory is driving a new wave of illegal butchery of elephants. Poor supervision and shoddy legal enforcement across countries are other reasons why dealers in fresh ivory are now able to avail themselves of an illicit passageway from Central and West Africa to artisan shops in Southern China and ultimately onto mantles and shelves in the homes and offices of China's rising upper class.
The illicit trade in ivory has truncated conservation and is progressively becoming a predicament of international organized crime and illicit trafficking. U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the illegal ivory trade a "multimillion-dollar criminal enterprise" at a committee hearing on poaching held May 24.
Last year, 5,259 elephant tusks were seized worldwide, representing the deaths of 2,670 elephants. This has led to fears of conservation experts that after 30 years of regaining population numbers, the African elephant may once again be in peril due to hunting and poaching.
While ivory may originally come from African poachers, militias, and armed gangs, it is individuals from the larger numbers of Chinese and Asian traders in Africa that are arranging for illegal transport out of the continent. According to the IFAW, the total number of ivory items auctioned in China doubled between 2010 and 2011.
UCF continues to support Uganda Wildlife Authority in its hard work to combat the increasing threats from poachers. For over 10 years, UCF has supported and enabled a permanent presence of rangers within and around the protected areas.
UCF has accomplished a successful elephant dung sample collection from all protected areas within the Albertine rift for DNA mapping. This is expected to aid trace the origin of the ivory and focus security efforts.
At UCF, we believe that to save the remaining elephants, there is still a lot more needed to sustain our actions in Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls Protected Areas; unless action is taken now, the next generations may never see elephants.
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