In 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to ban the international trade of ivory. Twenty-five years later, the African elephant is endangered and on the brink of extinction. In fact, it is predicted that in only 11 years, African elephants in the wild could become extinct!

Despite the efforts of many world leaders, the ivory trade has continued to persist. Every 15 minutes, another elephant is killed. That is 96 a day and approximately 33,792 a year, making ivory trafficking the 4th largest illegal business in the world right behind the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and humans!

As if ivory trade weren’t bad enough, the money generated from it, is often used to propagate other illegal activities. Many terrorist groups, such as Al Shabaab, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and Boko Haram get funding from illegal poaching. For example, Al Shabaab earns approximately USD $600,000 per month from the sale of illegal ivory to fund terrorist attacks. Not only are elephants being poached into extinction, but also innocent people are being murdered as a result of these illegal profits.

Although there is an “international ban” on the trade of ivory, it is not effectively enforced. Ivory is still bought and sold in China, Vietnam, U.A.E., Malaysia, Singapore, and Sri Lanka. From 2009 to 2014, 56 tons of ivory was bought and sold in these nations. Out of all of these nations, China is the largest contributor to the ivory trade. From 2009 to 2014 approximately 19.5 of the 56 tons were traded in China.

In February 2015, China put in place a one-year ban on the ivory trade as a result of international pressure from Western nations and the UN. This ban was only put in place a few months ago and the results of its effectiveness are not yet known, but if the ban were enforced properly, it would eliminate about one third of the world’s ivory demand. This means that the number of elephants killed in 2015 should be significantly lower. That being said, it is only a one-year ban, so although ivory trade may go down in 2015, it may only be a temporary improvement.

How does the ivory trade affect the African Rainforest Conservancy? The loss of the African elephant in the wild would negatively affect the delicate balance in the ecosystem of the Eastern Arc Mountains. In addition, two of the most significant African trafficking hot spots are in Tanzania. This means that people in Tanzania are at a higher risk of terrorist attacks. The safety of those living in the Eastern Arc Mountains and the delicate balance of the ecosystem are at risk if the ivory trade continues.

What can you do to save Africa’s endangered elephants? You can choose to be ivory free, which means never buy or accept ivory products, spread the word about the remaining African elephants, and support government action to end the trade of ivory.

NY Times “China Bans Import of Ivory Carvings for One Year”
National Geographic “Can Elephants Survive a Legal Ivory Trade? Debate is Shifting Against It”