My jaw drops open and I stand gulping like a guppy. I cannot believe what I am hearing from my Chinese colleague. Here we are in the 21st centuary and this incredibly beautiful minute woman with her porclain face and raven coloured hair is telling me in her quaint lilting voice that ivory is a status symbol in every good chinese home. I gasp and the air feels hot in my lungs as she informs me she has never given much thought as to how and where the tusks find their way to China. I shake my head and I can feel a frown pulling my eyebrows together.
‘White Gold’ is maybe what you call it Kim.’ My voice is low and intense, ‘but I call it blood ivory.’ The expression in her dark eyes as they rise to meet my blue stare is blank. I feel soft whispers from the bush and the hair on the nape of my neck prickles. My memories, sweet with the wonder of seeing these majestic giants in the wild wash over me and I find myself staring deep within this Chinese girl’s soul. She is genuinely ignorant about blood ivory. ‘Come, lets go and buy a cup of coffee.’ I hook my arm through hers and we wend our way through numerous tables covered in bright coloured clothes to a corner in the courtyard..quiet and private. I am going to inform her of the human footprints leaving an ugly scar on the land. Footprints that are small in size pointing to the fact that China is driving the demand for ivory which in turn is fuelling the trade that has African elephants poised on the edge of ‘extinction’.
‘Love for ivory is in our blood. It is etched deeply into the Chinese identity.’ Her eyes are downcast and her voice is low. I nod and say nothing. I am confident that by the time we have drunk our coffee this will be one Chinese girl who most definitely will not every want to own any ivory..no matter how deeply etched it is in her identity.
‘Kim, you need to listen in on their world and hear their desperate cries. 100 of these sentient animals are slaughtered per day to feed the ivory demand. Get caught in the mist that floats, reluctant to lift as muffled screams slice through the air. Allow the stench of gun powder and torn flesh to fill your nostrils. Feel the weight of the trees as they bow down, silent witnesses to the carnage. Cry as the large full term pregnant cow in labour, her full belly encumbering her desperate escape collapses in a heap, her symetrical tusks carving a deep ridge in the ground that is pooling with her blood. With one last convulsive shudder, she finishes off what she had started before the first bullet tore into her face. With her death she expells the miracle of new life which she has nurtured inside for the past 22 months. A small perfectly formed baby elephant lies immobile and defenceless..surrounded by the carcasses of what would have been her family..a family where deep bonds would have been forged over the next 40 years. A feast for those scavengers that will be attracted by the tortured screams and stench of blood carried on the wind.
This is only the beginning of the journey for your ‘white gold’. An elephants tusks are deeply embedded into the skull. You need to stare deep into the unseeing eyes of a slaughtered elephant..eyes that have been blurred by tears and fear. In some cases eyes that have glazed over with agony when the first thud of the axe falls before the heart stops beating. Hear the mournful ballad of the grey dove as death: a foul miasmic presence reaches out over the sun kissed bush of Africa. This is a scene that should be grotesque and offensive to eyes, ears and nostrils..and to those people who buy ivory. Sadly money talks..and money only talks when there is a demand.
The mutilated bodies of elephants are left behind in the bush but their personal treasures or blood ivory leaves a trail of blood that stretches from Africa by air, sea and highway into Chinese carving factories. China has 37 licensed carving factories and calls to shut down these factories are studiously ignored. Zhao Shucong is the man who approves the licensing of these state sanctioned factories.
Inside these factories Chinese carvers, with masks covering their noses and mouths sit hunched over their desks. Under bright artificial strip lights, the ivory tusk lies lifeless. A carver gently runs his hand down the length of ‘dentine’ that is all that remains from a magnificent giant that had proudly ambled under a cerulean sky for close on 45 years, her enormous trunk swinging freely as she communicated with her family members through a series of low frequency sounds that is undetected by the human ear..before being callously slaughtered. Lifting up a tool, he starts to whittle away at the polished tusk and she will be turned into a fancy carved ornament for somebody to pay a kings ransom for.
Today’s modern power-driven rotary saws and dental-like drills have revolutionized the art of ivory carving! Using carving skills perfected over 40 years, the carvers will painstakingly transform these pieces of dead ivory into sculptures. This could take months or even up to a year depending on the size of the tusks.
‘Going back to what you said about the Chinese peoples love for ivory being in their blood and the fact that it is etched deeply into the Chinese identity, Kim. Sadly.. the Chinese lust for ivory is causing a blood bath.’ I insist quietly, my heart hammering unevenly. ‘Have you every heard of Mr. Zhao Shucong? We need him to acknowledge that when the buying stops..so will the killing.’
Her dark smoldering eyes dart away. ‘I have heard of Mr. Zhao Shucong. He is the head of the State Forestry Admin. He is a powerful man.’
‘Kim, he is a very powerful man. Mr. Zhao Shucong not only approves licenses for the carving factories but also for the bear bile farms, tiger bone wine and much much more. Mr. Zhao Shucong holds the destiny of Africa’s gentle giants in his hands. China and Mr. Zhao Shucong needs to take responsibility for the fact that they are fueling the trade that is decimating African elephants. Here is a petition demanding that China bans all ivory.‘ I whip out my phone and find the page to show her..’I will tag you in it and then you can sign?’
Q&A: To Stem Africa’s Illegal Ivory Trade to Asia, Focus on Key Shipping Ports
‘There are three main ports in Africa being used to traffic ivory: Mombasa, in Kenya, and Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, in Tanzania.These are the people who essentially grease the machine that enables illicit ivory to get from Africa to Asia.
The report notes that port activity in West Africa surged in the past year. Do you think this trend will continue?
I do, but I think it will be short-lived. Southern Africa is where the trend will go. Elephants are disappearing in West Africa, and the trade is moving east, which is why you see Mombasa and Dar es Salaam as big points of export.
Eventually the real profit will be hitting southern African elephants, which have historically been the most robust populations but will become targets as the trend sees localized extinctions in other parts of Africa.
To see more on these questions and answers …see more‘
Kim is shaking her head. ‘I honestly did not know that such huge numbers of elephants were being killed for their ivory. I am ashamed to say that I have never thought about it. Are there people trying to protect these animals in Africa?’ There are no tears. She is far too controlled for that, but I have worked with her for long enough to know that she is upset, and embarrassed at her ignorance.
‘Yes, Kim there are. In Zimbabwe, the country that I come from there are a few different wildlife groups involved and many rangers are murdered through out Africa..frozen in time for ever, just like the wildlife they are trying to protect. Kim, it is sad because these rangers are trying to stop the elephants and other wildlife from being killed so that people can buy ivory and other animal parts. It is not only elephants that suffering, Kim. The rhinos are also being slaughtered for their horn. It has been scientifically proven that the rhino horn holds no magic cures for man. This ivory that your people lust for is shrouded in blood and flames.’
The Tashinga Initiative
‘My chosen cause is Chengeta Wildlife and the following infographic has been designed for Chengeta Wildlife with thanks to Joe Chernov, Robin Richards and Leslie Bradshaw. Please share it by any means that you can.’
Rangers and scouts are brave men who risk their lives to protect wildlife. They may face heavily armed poachers, sometimes ex-guerrilla fighters hired by ivory smuggling syndicates. These rangers need to have the best training and anti-poaching strategy possible and that is what Chengeta Wildlife provide.
Elephants, said Young, are the “most magnificent creatures.”
“They can empathize. They’re self-aware,” he went on to say. “When I see an elephant lying dead on the ground, it’s like seeing a friend getting shot.”
But if elephants went extinct, we wouldn’t just be losing an extraordinary animal, we’d also have an environmental calamity on our hands.
“Elephants are a keystone species,” said Young. “They have a profound effect on the ecosystem. If you protect an elephant, you protect the environment and all the animals around them.” To read More……
SAY NO TO IVORY