A research project operated by Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Clemson University scientists is showing shocking and increasing poaching of Asian elephants in one of their last strongholds. And baby elephants are being targeted for the first time.
Myanmar is one of the most forested countries in Asia and has the second largest population with around 5,000 animals.
In the video below you will see that poachers in that country are not killing them chiefly for ivory but for their skin. And that means they are killing males, females and baby elephants One of the quickest ways to deplete a population of anything is to kill breeding-aged females which makes this skin trade particularly deadly.
Hopefully this will get major mainstream news attention. Kudos to Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Clemson University for their discovery and exposure of this terrifying new trend.
With that said I doubt the big players in the wildlife conservation world will take notice and do much if anything. This is why I most often support small, focused conservation groups.
African elephants have been at the forefront of international wildlife conservation efforts for the last 30 years. When ivory poaching was brought to the public’s consciousness in the mid 1980s, the world was rightly appalled and millions of dollars have went toward their cause.
Currently there are an estimated 400,000 African elephants throughout the continent. That’s a huge drop from at least two million in the 1940s but it is large in comparison to the Asian elephant with a best estimate standing at around 35,000 animals scattered throughout Asia. Think about that.
There are less 1/10 Asian elephants in comparison to African.
Why is little said about Asian elephants?
For starters, big conservation is big bureaucracy and the public’s fascination with the African elephant helps generate funding. Lots of it. The largest threat to Asia’s elephant has been habitat loss with poaching also a factor but showing elephant carcasses stripped of tusks raises funds.
Showing palm oil plantations and villages taking up space for Asian elephants not so much.
People have a fascination with African game and there is always a greater interest there from the public than issues in other parts of the world.
I am all for helping African elephants but shouldn’t a bigger focus be on Asian elephant populations which stand at 1/10 of that in Africa?
According to the Great Elephant Census Tanzania alone has nearly four times the elephants than all of Asia does with 131,626.
If those who deal in international conservation want a new project to really sink their teeth into this one could be a game changer. It’s not too late to make a difference but if the elephant skin trade catches on throughout Asia it will not take long to decimate their numbers either.
If ivory-stripped bull elephants images raise funds, then cows and baby elephants stripped of their skin should do the same thing. Send down a film crew and get to work. The Asian elephants in Myanmar need help. Quickly.
Chester Moore, Jr.