On this Earth Day, there are so many things to grab our attention about the environment: population growth, climate change, overfishing and pollution of our oceans, destruction of habitat for endangered species around the world. It’s hard to choose one to think about, so, it’s likely we just ignore them all.
I have a soft spot for elephants. When my husband and I visited Ruaha National Park in Tanzania in 2008, we watched vast herds come down to the river in the evening to drink and bathe, and to socialize. It was an amazing experience. Between then and 2015, the number of elephants in Tanzania had dropped by 60%, from 109,051 to 43,330, almost entirely due to poaching to supply the voracious demand from China for ivory.
Tanzania is a poor third-world country that struggles to supply basic needs to its people, but they have been trying to battle the poaching. Just this January, one of their anti-poaching surveillance pilots was shot while flying over a new kill site by one of the poachers. He was able to land his helicopter, saving the life of his crew, but died before help could arrive. Here’s the The New York Times article.
Hopefully, the arrest of the Chinese leader of this poaching ring will reduce the number of elephants killed to supply the blackmarket ivory trade. Even if the poaching was completely eliminated, I think it will take a long time for the herds to return to their former sizes, if ever.
The potential is always there for elephants to join the ranks of extinct species. As our human numbers grow, so does the need to take over the few remaining habitats for wild creatures around the world. We understand enough about the impacts of our behaviors to knowingly choose whether or not elephants, and all the other non-human species, are important enough to save.
You may say, it’s just greedy to kill elephants for their ivory–no one really needs it. And that’s true. But is it any less greedy to destroy the rainforest in Borneo to supply our need for tropical hardwoods and palm oil (where the forests have been cleared, they have been replaced predominantly by palm oil plantations)?
Every choice we make as individuals contributes to the ongoing destruction of our mother, Earth.
Photo by Ramona Ridgewell. Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.