Asian elephants, already classified as a 'threatened' species by the IUCN, have been suffering from a rise in poaching, particularly in Myanmar, an area where 1200 – 1400 of the animals live. Now they are not only hunted for their tusks, which only male elephants have, but for their skin too, which is used to make jewelry.
Source: Tim Laman
No elephant is safe from poachers, who kill adults and babies alike to take their skin. These skins are also said to have medicinal properties. Dried and soaked in oil, it is used to treat everything from eczema to stomach upsets.
Strict gun laws mean that poachers usually use darts, or bamboo or metal spears dipped in pesticides. If an elephant is struck by one of these, they die a slow and painful death.
Source: Compass Films
Martin Tyson, a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, who is helping the government in Myanmar protect their elephants, told National Geographic that poachers have been using local guides to find their victims:
The guides often get arrested, and the poachers get away. But the amount guides can earn is probably months’ worth of what they could gain by any other activity.
Source: Aung Myo Chit
At the beginning of 2017, 25 elephants were massacred near the Ayeyawady delta, in the south-west of Myanmar. Nilanga Jayasinghe, a senior program officer for Asian species with the WWF, saw the violent deaths as a wake up call. Last year, 16 of the majestic animals were found dead, while more than 31 were discovered skinned between January and August 2017 alone.
The market for elephant skin could put the already precarious population of Asian Elephants in even more danger. Since both males and females are now being targeted, breeding rates are lowered, which could mean extinction if things don't get better soon.
Source: Alex Hofford
Middle class people in China are the main market for elephant-based objects and seem to be fueling the growing demand for elephant hide. Monica Wrobel, director of the Elephant Family Association, explains that salesmen ask potential buyers what they're suffering from, then claim that elephant skin will heal it. It has proved to be a very effective sales pitch, with elephant skin jewelry also being quite popular.
Profits from this horrendous form of trafficking are enormous; skinning an entire elephant can fetch up to $30,000, about as much as selling a baby elephant into entertainment.
Source: Elephant Family
To combat this threat, Myanmar's government is doing several things, such as committing to closing 20 wildlife markets at its borders by 2020 and making a first draft of a national elephant conservation plan, to be launched in 2018. WWF is also taking action, training 44 forest guards. They have already arrested 13 poachers.
You can help the WWF to protect elephants by donating.
H/t: National Geographic
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