A small herd of elephants spends the afternoon grazing on the wind swept grass of the savannah in the sweltering African sun. A few young calves playfully bounce around their mother’s legs. This peaceful vision is just a time of quiet before a bloody scene unfolds. What this small herd is blissfully unaware of is that poachers are quietly stalking them with murderous intent. This herd of elephants has a plethora of “white gold”. These poachers are after only one thing from the elephants, they are after their tusk made of ivory. By the end of the day the herd will practically be obliterated with only a small number of lucky survivors.
Unfortunately, poaching elephants is not an atypical event throughout man African countries. During the late 1970s through the late 1980s there was a striking reduction in the population of wild elephants from approximately 1.2 -1.3 million in 1979 to about 600,000 in 1989 (“Economics of Antipoaching Enforcement” 2). However, it is important to note the vast majority of the elephants killed during this time were illegally killed (“Economics of Antipoaching Enforcement”3). There were herds that had been completely wiped out by poachers with assault rifles shooting from jeeps and helicopters. According to the World Wildlife Fund, approximately 80% of the ivory traded during the 1970s had been acquired by poaching activities (“African Elephants: Threats”). In order to contend with the decline of the African elephant population the Ivory Trade Ban was passed with an overwhelming majority in October of 1989 by the United Nation on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife Fauna and Flora, also know as CITES (Sands and Bedecarre 1).
In support of the Ivory Trade Ban the United States agreed to provide economic aid to African countries such as Botswana, Kenya, and Namibia to assist in eliminating the “needed foreign currency from the sale of ivory produced by their well managed stocks (“Economics of Antipoaching Enforcement” 6). The US provided aid to those countries who stood to lose the most from the ban. Countries like Botswana, Kenya, and Namibia had successfully managed the elephant populations within their boundaries.
On a few occasions the ban has been lifted in order to allow countries to sell, for profit, the large stocks of ivory tusks that have been accumulated from elephants who either died from natural causes, poaching, or had to be destroyed. CITES has voted to lift the ban twice. Once in 1999 which resulted in a one-time sale of 60 tons of ivory and another lift was authorized in 2002 ("CITES revises ivory trade policy." and Randerson, James 2). The administration of President William J. Clinton supported the lifting the ban to allow the countries to sell remaining stocks of ivory as long as there was an agreement to use a portion of the proceeds to fund conservation and preservation programs (Clinton "Statement on Proposals To Reopen Trade in Elephant Ivory and Whale...