It seems to me that poaching for ivory has remained a relatively unknown concept in Europe. It is rarely discussed on our news channels and appears to have become a taboo, an unnecessary topic and far too barbaric for European minds. Without huge numbers of elephants and rhinos on our land, or a vast demand for ivory, there has been no real need to learn about poachers and their activities. However, poaching can no longer remain a mystery for us Europeans. With one elephant being slaughtered every fifteen minutes, at a rate that will result in extinction in the next few years, poaching must be at the forefront of our minds.
Poaching, in this case, is the process in which individuals trespass on protected land in order to saw off the ivory horns of any elephants and rhinos present. The animals often survive this traumatic ordeal and are left staggering around in agony. Young animals are separated from their parents, and often die shortly after due to a lack of food or protection. Although rangers are enlisted to deter poachers, they are regularly wounded or even killed in struggles against poachers.
The Global March for Elephants and Rhinos campaign offers an explanation as to why ivory has become such a vast issue. While the sale of ivory is illegal in the UK, China and Vietnam reap in the benefits of the ivory trade. Rhino horn is believed to have medical properties, particularly by the Vietnamese. However, according to the Global March and other anti-poaching charities, the horn of a rhino is made purely of keratin. This is the same substance our fingernails are made up of, and is defined as completely powerless by the Global March foundation. In China, ivory is used as a symbol of wealth, particularly for the middle classes. This class is growing at a rapid pace as China’s ever-evolving economy makes more and more people richer every day. As China’s human population rises, the number of elephants and rhinos on this earth plummets.
Recently I took part in one of the international marches to raise awareness for elephants and rhinos and rally against the illegal wildlife trade. As the biggest wildlife campaign to date, the marches ran to raise vital awareness of the poaching trade and the threat of extinction for our fellow mammals. Despite the illegality of the ivory trade in the UK, the black market still thrives with the sale of ivory and it is important that our government take a firmer stance regarding the wildlife trade.
I attended the march in London Westminster, and spent the majority of the day chanting, “Rhino horn is not a medicine” through the streets of London and outside Parliament. The march was inspirational and despite the thrashing rain, over 1,000 people attended the Westminster march alone. As well as the actual march through Oxford Street, speeches were given and messages were read from politicians such as William Hague and Ed Miliband; all were in favour of anti-poaching strategies. David Attenborough sent his apologies that he could not attend the protest.
Guest speakers included radio and television presenter, Nicky Campbell, who gave a fantastic speech and alluded to the consequences of poaching if it were to continue at the rate it occurs today. Without vast numbers of elephants and rhinos, the remaining few mammals will be caged to stop complete extinction. These animals will become a tourist attraction, fated to be confined and depressed. They will be a sorry shadow of the wild animals that used to roam this earth. Elephants have been around for thousands and thousands of years – way before humans. To wipe out these animals will bring shame upon our generation.