This blog explores the issue of illegal elephant and rhino poaching across Africa. Though the topic diverges from the issue I’ve come to South Africa to research, it is one that touches on the very nerve of wildlife conservation, not only in South Africa, but across the continent. It is a story fueled by demands from distant markets, far removed from the devastation wrought at the local level. Poverty, corruption, greed, and ignorance grease the wheels of the illegal international trade in elephant and rhino ivory. South Africa is uniquely situated as one of the last strongholds for rhino populations in Africa, and a major export destination for much of the illegal ivory from both elephants and rhinos leaving the African continent.
The decision to focus the second of my in-country podcasts on this issue was due to a chance encounter with Nick, an individual who works for TRAFFIC’s South Africa office. Having been immersed in researching water issues since my arrival in Pretoria, I was deeply moved by the conversation I had with Nick and the chance to focus my search (albiet briefly) on another issue of critical importance to the African continent. Though water and ivory are two vastly different subjects, they both are facing unprecedented pressure from forces often outside the control of where impacts are felt the most- at the local level. Focusing my podcast on the illegal trade in ivory allowed me the opportunity to gain some knowledge and insight into an issue that is critical to not only South Africa but the entire African continent, and deepen my understanding of ongoing efforts to address this critical issue.
Much of the information used in this podcast is derived from the TRAFFIC reports, “Illegal Trade in Ivory and Rhino Horn” (2014), and “Setting Suns: The Historical Decline of Ivory and Rhino Horn Markets in Japan” (2016), as well as information from the TRAFFIC website. The documents can be accessed at: www.traffic.org. I urge anyone interested in this issue to explore the website of TRAFFIC and some of its partner organizations.