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Paula Kahumbu

CEO, WildlifeDirect

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How do we save African elephants from extinction?

African elephants are being slaughtered for their ivory as a surprising consequences of the rise of Asian economies. Symbolic of wealth and prestige, ivory was once only affordable for a few. Now with hundreds of millions of newly rich people in Asia, demand has outstripped supply and elephants are being killed at a rate that will drive them to extinction in less than 15 years.

African governments are unable to stop the poaching - the price of ivory is driving impunity, corruption and is now under control of criminal cartels.

How do we stop this? What will it take to reverse this trend? Do we need to change cultures? Appealing for compassion in China, Thailand, Philippines? Is it about law enforcement?

We need some bright ideas from TEDsters who love African animals and who know how to cause change in Asia


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    Feb 27 2013: G'day Paula

    I'm not sure but I think they do but do elephant tusks regrow & how long does it take for tusks to regrow?

    The reason I ask is if we are serious about saving these animals from extinction farm them for their tusks, I know this wouldn’t be an easy task but it’s worth a thought. Approach someone who is willing to do this that has the finances to do so. I know we like to see these animals in their natural habitat without human interference but what is the alternative? I would also consider doing this with other animals as well like the rhino.

    • Feb 28 2013: Rhino farming is actually established and underway in South Africa right now. The horn can be safely cut off without any harm to the animal, and they grow back within 18 months, making this a profitable and sustainable venture. The link I used is here:
      The problem with trying the same with elephants is the material of the horn. Rhino horns are made out of keratin, like human hair or fingernails. And like hair and fingernails, a rhino's horn can be cut off safely (if done properly) and grow back.
      However, elephant tusks are made out of ivory. They are essentially modified teeth, and what happens when you pull a tooth out? It bleeds. It hurts. It can get infected. The problem is that teeth still having living tissue and nerves inside them. An elephant can have nerves going all the way to the tip of its tusks. Thus, it would be very difficult to remove tusks safely, and probably impossible to do so without harming the elephant.
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        Feb 28 2013: G'day Mustafa

        I was just thinking of cutting the ivory tusk of to the desired length.
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      Feb 28 2013: Thanks Mustafa and Mathew, pulling teeth is exactly that .. pulling teeth. Difficult, painful, dangerous. I'm looking for radical solutions to the demand in Asia, and new innovative ways of improving enforcement in Africa - from anti-poaching, to intelligence, prosecutions and elephant population management. Cheers, Paula
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        Feb 28 2013: G'dat Paula

        Good luck on this because as ivory become scarcer the price of ivory will obviously go up which will in turn impact in how poachers work, they will become a lot more sophisticated just like the drug trade. Also the more money made from such products the more corruption.

        The Asians have always loved ivory as they have of Rhino horns, the market is there to be filled & no amount of education is going to stop this supply & demand just like the drug trade.


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