When animals get locked down

Elephant poaching: life vs money

IUCN warns

Recently, in March 2021, the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), an NGO based in Gland (Switzerland), raised awareness of one of the most interesting and mythicized animals in our culture: the elephant.

Two elephant species, which habitat is in Africa, have been added to the NGO’s red list (including species at risk): the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) and the African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana).

It almost seems like a sickle has spookily combed through the habitat of these gigantic animals, endangering them. Indeed, as IUCN points out, in 31 years there has been an 86% decrease in the forest elephant and in 50 years a 60% decrease in the savanna elephant.

The sickle mentioned above has a name, and it’s one of the few species that are not at all endangered: the homo sapiens.

Frightful numbers: WWF warns

Not surprisingly, it is men’s behaviour that brings pain, extinction or danger to other species.

Still, we are once more protagonists or spectators of this harsh reality: the life of elephants is fragile due in most part to poaching, which is, as reported by the WWF, “one of the main causes of death among elephants: every year around 20 000 African elephants are massacred.”

Since we are continuously flooded with numbers and data, this particular number might mean nothing, but let’s take another one: in 2016 the most reliable esteem on the number of elephants living in Africa was 415 000 and, if things don’t change, on the basis of the WWF’s data mentioned above, in a few decades no elephant will be spared from the sickle we are handling.

Men are killing elephants to obtain ivory, a material that is considered to be very precious.

In ancient times, men sought ivory to make statues, tribal or religious objects and symbols, whereas nowadays they seek it because of its unchanged market value.

An example to understand the value of this material – obtained from the elephants’ fangs – and the reason why poachers crave it, can be the following: on the black market 1 kilo of ivory can cost up to 3000 euros.

Fiction vs reality

All this is kind of cunning, considering that – as I said earlier – this animal is one of the most mythicized and particular on a global level and it’s also really appreciated in many cultures.

Just think of all the animation movies, the photos, posters and calendars portraying the elephants in savannas or forests, the stereotyped stories about Africa, in which elephants are the protagonists.

Also, think of Hannibal incredibly crossing the Alps in 218 B.C., when he and his men brought from Spain 37 elephants, belonging to the species Loxodonta africana cyclotis.

However, astonishment and vain collective affection transform into silence when it comes to protecting the elephants.

At the terrible cost of their life money is obtained and it becomes far more important than their breath. 3000 euros per kilo erase myths, stories and images.

A breathing everything

After years of reflections – no, thousands of years – we can argue: the collective image suggests that what distinguishes humans from other species is intellect, conscience, thought, and they exist beyond physiological automatisms.

But when the human sickle acts, where are conscience, intellect and thought? Can’t poaching for money be compared to a venal, “beastly” need?

Most likely, the behaviour of mankind towards animals will change only in case a concrete collective conscience develops, aware of the fact that we ourselves are animals, that there’s no distinction between “higher and dominant” men and nature. We are a concrete oneness, made up of elements that have to cooperate for the existence of a “breathing everything.”

To understand the global fauna situation, it would be enough to look at the numerous IUCN red lists and observe all the cases in which our species is responsible for the suffering of other ones.

Life wins over money

Not everything’s grey, black, hopeless. Fortunately, the idea of nature as a unique one – including us – is a strong belief of many associations, often NGOs, non-governmental organizations, volunteering initiatives and other institutions protecting Earth’s flora and fauna.

Also, from sustainable markets to the safeguard of the environment, in their everyday life, people are always more embracing an all-encompassing view of nature.

We need to take this path and to keep following it with awareness, even in the simplest things: supporting the initiatives that defend the environment and being outraged by the numbers that prove the damages to the environment. We need to be a part of this breathing oneness that wants to keep breathing.

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