2011: Deadly Year for Elephants

Ivory seizures represent at least 2.5K dead
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2011 8:39 AM CST
2011: Deadly Year for Elephants
A family of elephants run off after their release in the Maasai Mara by Kenya Wildlife Services, KWS, wardens September 22, 2011 near Narok in Kenya during a translocation excercise.   (Getty Images)

This year will ring out as one of the deadliest for elephants since ivory sales were banned more than two decades ago. Officials seized tusks from a record 2,500 elephants, and while some of those could be from long-dead animals, the news still isn't good. "As most large-scale ivory seizures fail to result in any arrests, I fear the criminals are winning," says an expert from wildlife trade monitor TRAFFIC. Most experts look directly to the East in laying the blame.

"The escalation in ivory trade and elephant and rhino killing is being driven by the Asian syndicates that are now firmly enmeshed within African societies," the expert tells the AP. Exact numbers are difficult to obtain, since there are also other ivory shipments that make it through undetected, but the Environmental Investigation Agency says that 50 elephants are killed each month in Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve alone. A record 443 rhinos—whose horns are coveted for use in traditional Asian medicine—were also killed this year in South Africa. (More elephant stories.)

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