The price of a dead elephant

African elephants

Herd of elephants in African savanna at sunset. (© Mohamed Muha)

Editor’s note: The following op-ed appeared in Scientific American in response to the Trump Administration’s recent announcements on the import of elephant trophies. Click here to view the original post.

U.S. President Trump is questioning whether to maintain a ban on importing elephant trophies into the United States. Maun, a small, dusty town at the gateway to the world’s largest population of elephants, may hold the answers he seeks.

Maun sits within the Okavango Delta in Botswana, where elephants thrive. Huge elephant guns have been banned for years, and research shows that even elephants know the area is safe: Populations from nearby countries with high poaching rates have been fleeing to Botswana.

For Conservation International CEO M. Sanjayan, being in Maun drives home the value of keeping elephants alive — and the inherent fallacy of conflating trophy hunting with conservation and economic value.

Today, there are only 350,000 African savanna elephants left in the wild, marking a decline of 30 percent in less than a decade. To help combat this, Botswana is leading the Elephant Protection Initiative, a coalition of 15 African nations committed to closing their ivory markets and eliminating or placing their ivory stockpiles out of commercial use. The Initiative is, Sanjayan writes, an African stand for Africa’s elephants.

“At this crucial moment in time, when the world is finally a hair’s breadth away from ending the trade in ivory, the Trump Administration can set this right. And together, we can stop the scourge of poaching, and the use of ivory as fuel for criminal gangs and terror networks.”

Read more here.

Sophie Bertazzo is a senior editor at CI. 

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  1. David Bennett says

    Elephants are like any other animals they need to be managed. You can only have so many animals on so much ground.If you have more than the habitat can support they will destroy the habitat and starve.

    1. Rachel Rakaczky says

      Ours is the only population that needs to be managed. Nature has been at this for far longer, and is much better at self-regulating. We need to stop encroaching on their habitat, stop the hateful trophy hunting, and let them find their own balance. People are the ones who breed without the ability to care for their young, not wildlife. And the more you interfere with their numbers, the more out of balance those numbers get.

  2. Linda says

    Thank you Botswana for helping to make elephants somewhat safe in your country. These beautiful beings must not be hunted or captured for humans. Their parts cannot be shipped to the United States as trophies or for Far East medicine. I fear that our sitting president in the US is against anything that is generous or kind to wildlife. But the people of the US are supportive of your efforts to protect elephants and other big game from hunting or poaching. Please pursue the poachers and other criminals from wildlife trafficking or crimes against wildlife.

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