Wednesday, February 16, 2011


In our project, we focused on poaching African elephants. We researched on how poaching affects the African elephants’ population decline, and how well the anti-poaching laws are working. First we figured out that the ivory from elephants’ tusks was the major cause of poaching. Because of that, more than 50% of elephants were killed from 1930 to 1989. Poaching also affects not only the population of elephants but also the biodiversity in Africa. In order to prevent the extinction and the destruction of biodiversity, the African Elephant Conservation Act was passed in 1989. Even though it was not able to stop all poaching, it decreased the influence of the ivory trade and number of elephants’ deaths. However the weakness of the Act was that it could not stop the ivory trade on the internet, especially on eBay. So we made some laws that would ideally be in effect. We would create an international license for animal product traders, and monetary rewards for arrests of poachers and equipment. What is the result? Elephant populations would rise, causing beneficial and harmful effects. Humans and elephants would inevitably clash more often, but we hope our laws could minimize the damage. Ultimately, poaching of elephants would decline dramatically, and biodiversity would be saved.

Elephant Mortality

Elephant mortality rates after the ivory trade ban in 1989.


The First Photo: Young orphaned elephants usually die without human intervention (Courtesy of Carl Kruhm)
Second: An elephant with its head shot with an anti-tank weapon by poachers
Third: An elephant feeds on a bush. Elephants are vital to plant life across Africa

Dr. Justin Brashares: Associate professor at University of Berkeley

Dr. Brashares is one of the leading experts of wildlife ecology and preservation in Africa today.
He believes that the global decline of biodiversity is one of the most pressing issues that we face today. He is a prolific writer, and wrote many scientific journal articles concerning biodiversity in Africa.

The bush meat trade is the illegal market of wild animal meat. Large groups of poachers brutally kill animals such as elephants, gorillas, and cheetahs and sell their meat on local and international markets. Justin and his researches affirmed that the multibillion-dollar trade in bush meat is ‘among the most immediate threats to the persistence of tropical vertebrates.’ (Brashares, page 1180)
Bushmeat Hunting, Wildlife Declines, and Fish Supply in West Africa
Justin S. Brashares, Peter Arcese, Moses K. Sam, Peter B. Coppolillo, A. R. E. Sinclair and Andrew Balmford
New Series, Vol. 306, No. 5699 (Nov. 12, 2004), pp. 1180


The first thing we did as a group was brainstorming ideas for our subject. After some failed ideas, Daniel proposed that we did something related to poaching or illegal hunting. We concurred that the topic was a good one; the statistics and graphs suited Jen and Daniel’s physics experiences, and all the connotations to biodiversity juxtaposed with my biology strengths. After narrowing down the subject to elephants specifically, we split up research and contacted professors. We have the opinions of two of them in our presentation.

The results of our research are general information on poaching, detailed statistics, a set of new laws to prevent elephant poaching in Africa and to constrain the international ivory market, and research on the effect declining elephant populations have on African biodiversity. We also have some professional insight on the issue, despite being unable to reach the majority of our planned international contacts.

The Revised International Elephant Poaching and Ivory Trade Bill

One, creating an international license for animal product traders...
- Elephant protection personnel will be focused on the most concentrated areas of elephants.
- All suspicious international exports and imports will be subject to searches for ivory.
- All free and colonized African countries must implement laws and actions to prevent elephant poaching.
·         Human populated areas must be carefully guarded by rangers and professionals to prevent elephants from raiding crops and clashing with the local villagers. These rangers will be well equipped with weaponry and wildlife preservation mechanisms.
- Money rewards for substantiated (proven) arrests of elephant poachers and equipment.
- After five years, if any ivory is found on the public market in any country, it will be seized and the vendor fined 25,000 Canadian dollars by either the country’s state police or Interpol.
- Mega-parks will be created with Western monetary and scientific aid and African nations’ cooperation to allow the elephants to live in a natural but protected ecosystem.
- African train speeds will be reduced to prevent accidental elephant deaths from collision.
- Road-building will be prohibited or limited in elephant migration paths.
-Bush meat trade is outlawed. Any vendor found selling bush meat will be fined 2,500 dollars. Alternative protein sources such as poultry will be considered and possibly implemented in African countries with international aid.
-A fifty million dollar project supported by American and European Union public and private investors to enforce these laws will be launched. The details are still being drafted.

Elephant Poaching

Elephant poaching has many adverse affects on elephant behaviour and African forest and Savannah biodiversity.

- Elephants keep habitats open for other species by feeding on wild bush and transforming it into grasslands. An adult male can eat up to seventy kilograms of plants each day.
- Their droppings disperse seeds and promote plant growth. Dung beetles consume and bury the feces, fertilizing the soil.
- Poaching disrupts elephant psychological health. Stress hormones called glucocorticoids are found more often in disrupted families, especially ones lacking matriarchs, than in complete families. Young elephants living in a park that lost older male elephants to poaching displayed aggressive behaviour such as killing rhinoceroses. When older male elephants were introduced to the park, the aggression subsided.
- Elephants are often seen as the architects of African plant diversity. Though they damage forests and crops, they are also the most significant distributer of plant seeds and therefore, plant life, in the African savannahs and forests. As Howthorne and Parren state, ‘Evidence [supports] the hypothesis that plant populations are collapsing without elephants.’ (Hawthorne, Page 133)

Elephants are important to African society as well.

- Elephant viewing is an important factor of ecotourism, which is a huge source of income for Africans working in the lodging, food, and tourism industries.

How Important Are Forest Elephants to the Survival of Woody Plant Species in Upper Guinean Forests?
William D. Hawthorne and Marc P. E. Parren
Journal of Tropical Ecology
Vol. 16, No. 1 (Jan., 2000), pp. 133

Poaching and Biodiversity

-Poaching poses an urgent threat to African biodiversity because it leaves many animal populations devastated and unable to survive in the wild. (Unsustainable)
-When a certain amount of individual organisms are removed, a population can no longer sustain itself in the wild.
-The extinction of one species may also affect other local species as species dominance shifts or the survival mechanisms of other species are compromised.

Four benefits of biodiversity
1.       Ethics and respect of life
2.       Economic development: Well managed biological resources can provide food/goods for an indefinite period of time
3.       Maintains natural ecological cycles such as seed dispersal and nutrient cycling
4.       Wildlife, sensitive to chemicals, function as pollutant indicators

Elephant Captivity rate

- Significant decline of elephant numbers in Africa

The African Elephant Conservation Act

Ivory trade is major cause of declining of elephant population

African Elephant Conservation Act (AECA) in 1989.
It will provide
-          a review of African elephant conservation programs
-          a grant program to support research, conservation, management, and protection of African elephants

AECA Grant Program has provided funds to increase anti-poaching support in Cameroon, Congo, Eritrea, Gabon, Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Prohibitions and Penalties
-          It is illegal to trade ivory with any country other than ivory producing country
-          Penalties will be a reward of one-half of the criminal or civil penalty or $25,000.

Weakness in the African Elephant Conservation Act
-          It is impossible to block every single trade on illicit ivory through internet.
-          eBay is the most active market on international ivory trade. eBay market is even increasing, after the online marketplace promised to restrict the sale of products made from animal teeth and tusks.

Change in the Act
-          There should be a strict restriction on violating the law. The Act should include a cyber law that requires license when they want to trade endangered animal products.

TED Case Studies

Value: Reliable Elephant Ivory Trade Ban

  • threatened with extinction, they are theoretically protected from international trade since 1989
  • although ivory trade has experienced sustained growth since the 1940s, the huge increase that occurred during the 1970s was the result of the automatic weapons availability and widespread government corruption in many exporting countries
  • in the 1960s, raw ivory prices remained between $3 and $10 per pound
  • 1975 the prices reached $50 because ivory was perceived as a valuable hedge against rising inflation
  • by 1987, the price was $125 per pound
  • new manufacturing techniques, enables mass production of ivory carvings, along with rising demand in East Asia and led to increased elephant kills
World Raw Ivory Consumption (%)
Before the 1989 CITES ban, illegal and legal ivory exports amounted to 770 metric tons, or 75,000 elephants. The listing of elephants has effectively banned all trade in elephant ivory
  • without substantial investment in the elephant conservation in several African countries
  • quota system: each tusk has to be marked and coded by country origin and then entered into an international data base which monitored the trade, alerted authorities, collected information on herd numbers and the animal’s status for a report to the 1989 CITES Meeting
  • ivory quota system came into effect in January, 1989. Immediately prior to its implementation, there was a general amnesty on illegal ivory stockpiles. This prompted a massive price rise as previously illegal stockpiles were released onto the market. 
9. Geographic Locations
Most elephants in Africa reside in Zaire (112,000), followed by Gabon (78,000), Botswana (68,000), Tanzania (61,000), and Zimbabwe (52,000). Kenya's elephants have been greatly reduced and now number 16,000 (see Table 2).
a. Geographic Domain: Africa
b. Geographic Site: South Africa [SAFR]
c. Geographic Impact: East Asia, especially [CHINA] Table 2
Elephants in Africa, by Country (1989) (thousands)
South Africa
South Africa
I. Coast
S. Leone

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

International Contact -- Samuel Wasser

Contact: University of Washington conservation biologist. Samuel Wasser. He is lead author of a paper in the August issue of Conservation Biology that contends elephants are on a course that could mean most remaining large groups be extinct by 2010 unless renewed public pressure brings about heightened enforcement
History: African elephants are being slaughtered for their ivory at a pace unseen since an international ban on the ivory trade took effect in 1989. 
  • evidence gathered from recent major ivory seizures shows conclusively that the ivory is not coming from a broad geographic area but rather that hunters are targeting specific herds
Approach: Wasser’s laboratory had developed DNA tools that can determine which elephant population ivory came form. This is important because often poachers attack elephants in one country but ship the contraband ivory from an adjacent nation to throw off law enforcement. For example, 6.5 tons of ivory seized in Singapore in 2002 were shipped from Malawi, but DNA tracking showed the ivory came originally form an area centered on Zambia.
---> Result: authorities can find where poaching is known to occur as a means of preventing elephants from being killed.
Statistics: Elephant death rate from poaching throughout Africa is about 8 percent a year based on recent studies, which is actually higher than the 7.4 percent annual death rate that led to the international ivory trade ban nearly 20 years ago.
  • poaching death rate in the late 1980s was based on a population that numbered more than 1 million. Today the total African elephant population is less than 470,000
  • Wasser claims “If the trend continues, there won’t be any elephants except in fenced areas with a lot of enforcement to protect them”
Laws: 1989: most international ivory trade was banned by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. At the time the treaty was enacted, poachers were killing an average of 70,000 elephants a year. The ban instigated stronger enforcement efforts, nearly halting poaching immediately. 
Illegal Ivory Trade: being carried out mostly by large crime syndicated. Wasser believes, and is being driven by growing markets in China and Japan, where ivory is in demand for carving and signature stamps called hankos. Demand is high in US to make knife handles and gun grips. Illegal ivory trade has gotten relatively low priority from prosecutors, and new laws promoting global trade have created “a policing nightmare,” Wasser says, which makes ivory poaching a high profit, low risk endeavor. 

Solution: focus enforcement in areas where the ivory comes from in the first place, before it enters the complex, global crime trade network. Public support is crucial to helping reduce demand and to spur the needed enforcement help from the West. 

NOTE: We tried to contact this professor. No reply, but his published works have been provided us with sufficient information.

What is poaching? Effects of Poaching?


Is the illegal taking of wild plants or animals contrary to local and international conservation and wildlife management laws. Violations of hunting laws and regulations are normally punishable by law and, collectively, such violations are known as poaching.

claim: massacring of the wildlife has reduced their once flourishing numbers to their present pitiful state as endangered species
action?: African governments have created huge national parks that serve as wildlife sanctuaries

Effects of Poaching:

led to the demise of some endangered species, added to endangered species list
sometimes wiping out an entire study of animals, including tigers and elephants
elephants: why poachers go after elephants? elephant tusks. Although it is now illegal to utilize ivory or to sell it, many poachers make vast amounts of money, selling the ivory on the black market


--- real elephant tusks

--- ivory tusks

Topic Change

Group Member edit:
1. Jennifer Hizon
2. Paul Ding
3. Daniel Kim

Topic Change:
We decided to focus on ivory trade in Africa and will research on the ivory trade ban. We will consider how past and present laws have affected the biodiversity of the elephants. We predict that if more specific laws were enforced and taken more seriously, elephant's would not be so much at risk of extinction like they are today.

Proposal: We will go back in time and create anti-poaching laws in 1800. The laws, when enforced, will prevent loss of biodiversity in Africa caused by European poachers in the 1800s

Plan of Action:
Paul Ding: Research on Biodiversity
Daniel Kim: Consider the different laws
Jennifer Hizon: Find various statistics on how poaching has effected biodiversity of elephants.
All: responsible for emailing international contacts (*our replies have not been as successful as planned)