Friday, October 28, 2011

Saving the elephants

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 7:21 AM

Young elephants playing in Amboseli National Park

Recently, we wrote about Barbara von Hoffmann, a local photographer who was one of 16 winners in an international photo contest, the prize for which is wall space at the Smithsonian Institution.

In our interview and in a follow-up e-mail, Von Hoffmann made it clear that she's passionate not only about her photography, but also elephants in Africa. (She’s in Botswana photographing them now.) But she’s deeply concerned that the ivory trade, long the cause of elephant slaughter there, is getting worse.

Things are escalating for a number of reasons, but the main push comes from basic market forces. China is a large consumer of ivory products, and with more Chinese able to purchase ivory, the demand has grown.

The result is a disastrous uptick in poaching. According to Von Hoffmann’s research, as many as 30,000 elephants from one region were poached in three years, and there are several countries in Africa where there may be no elephants left.

Von Hoffmann points out that there are efforts to educate Chinese people about the source of the ivory. (Many don’t realize elephants are killed to harvest it.) However, that doesn't combat problems dealing with ivory traded for weapons and drugs; for that, armed guards are installed in airports and national parks.

But what about those of us here? Von Hoffmann admits it's a helpless feeling to be thousands of miles (and jurisdictions) away. She says petitions (like this and this) help, and donations to organizations like Save the Elephants.

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