The sound of the SUVs tear across the horizon. It breaks the stillness that covers the dawn. Dust trails follow their tracks as they burst from the sunlit savannah. Their guns are loaded— some with tranquilizers, some with bullets. A mother and her calf scream and run from the speeding SUVs but they are separated. A group of the poachers keeps newborn from her mother while it watches as the mother collapses onto the ground with a heavy and deep thud that reverberates out toward her wailing calf. Soon, her tusks, in their strength and vivid white colors that stand out against the burnt soil, are stolen from her aged face and tossed into the SUV without care. As they came, they leave. The mechanical roaring drowns the screams of the pacing calf and as they leave its small legs run toward her fallen mother. The calf’s eyes show its misery and its confusion and its panicked spirit as the mother lies still without movement and without her ivory tusks. The calf will grow in the years to come. But the mother will not. Those tusks, which will soon be made into a small charm or a piece of jewelry, had saved her many times before but will save her never again. Once again silence returns to the savannah. But it is a silence that echoes with the screams and cries of horror.
The United Nations reported that nearly one hundred elephants are killed each day for the sake of the ivory trade. Elephant tusks are used for a variety of purposes that range from the creation of fine jewelry to ornaments all that can be hand-carved from a traditional master or factory produced in a mass-production setting. The majority of the ivory stolen from elephants goes to China as it has seen a seventy percent increase in the demand for ivory within Chinese markets. One of the dilemmas facing any type of justification for this ivory market is the way in which Chinese artists are creating ivory pieces. Centuries ago, master carvers would create pieces of ivory into large, ornate pieces that not only told stories but also were an art form all in itself. In Hong Kong, one master of the art has rebuked environmentalists and “attention seeking lawmakers” for attempting to destroy a part of traditional Chinese culture that he warns could “just vanish without a trace.” In many instances, tradition is becoming incongruent with the ethics our world has begun to establish in the wake of the possibility of the African elephant’s possible extinction. It is absolutely probable that two generations from now there will be no African elephants left in the wild and the only ones to remain will live behind the confines of cement walls and iron cages. No longer will our children be able to look at the globes, point to the African continent, and exclaim, “This is where the elephants live!” To leave behind a world
Our world is faced with the bold question, in regards to the vulnerability of elephants, what type of world are we leaving for our children? We have been warned about our destructive economic and environmental policies that are devastating our world, but have we truly given a second thought to what will be left after we are gone? The dilemma facing the elephants in Africa is, all too grimly, seen with entire populations of species around the world. Another African mammal, the black rhinoceros has shown that it too is vulnerable to human greed and desire to poach and hunt. The list continues on with amur leopards in China, Sumatran orangutans in Sumatra, and even many sea turtles. Each animal species represents something greater than a mere animal in a picture or on a documentary; it represents the collective survival and perseverance of nature over thousands of years into the culmination of the variety of fauna and animals that roam the Earth today. Against all odds, millions of species of plants, animals, and insects inhabited the Earth before humans began to label a tiger as a “tiger” and before we even began to make our mark as a species. The odds always changed from the favor of one variety of species to another while pressuring the varieties of species that were unable to survive those odds to the brink of extinction. However this extinction is not the same force that is driving the elephant and orangutan to annihilation, for the latter is imposed and created by man’s desire for more land and more wealth. It is our greed, our lust for more, and our desire to expand that has destroyed the future stability of nearly every ecosystem on the planet. How we expect to survive off of the Earth while we simultaneously destroy its natural inhabitants is unwarranted and truly oblivious to the truth. For the truth is that when we eliminate the smallest of insects or the largest of mammals, the effect that the removal of that species from the world has on our lives is so large our small lives do not even comprehend the sheer magnitude of its effect and change on the dynamic nature between all life on Earth.
Soon, our species will destroy the planet and the environment we were meant to live off of. Soon, we will be unable to toil the land, hunt in the forests, or fish from the seas. Soon, we will look toward our industry, our factories, our laboratories, and our leaders to help us find food and water and clean air. And what will they do? They will look toward our planet and steal from it the final scrap of life that has remained after these years of destruction. But this can be stopped. Not only does our species have the ability to create a future that is sustainable, but we have the power to ensure that generations upon generations live amongst the great multitude that populates the Earth now. There is without a doubt a future that is possible in our own generation where the impending collapse of nature does not govern what will happen. By not only educating people about the state of endangered and vulnerable species in the world but going beyond that in order to become an active member of organizations committed to preventing the extinction of so many species, you too can make a difference. The Jane Goodall Institute is among one of the leading groups that specializing in protecting Chimpanzee habitats in Africa. As a member of this organization myself, I have seen what both small and large contributions can do to ensuring that endangered populations have a chance at surviving in a rapidly-industrializing country. I encourage you to visit the websites listed below and find an organization that fits your desires to ensure we not only have an environment in the future, but a home for all life on Earth as well.
The Jane Goodall Institute
International Elephant Foundation
World Wildlife Fund
Wildlife Conservation Society
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
International Crane Foundation
Tapp is an editor at The Millennial Times.