- Both tusks and teeth of animals maybe referred to as ivory. Elephant tusks are the main source of ivory but parts from other animals like hippo, whales, walrus, etc. may also be used at times.
- Before plastics were invented, ivory was used to make billiards balls, piano keys and a whole range of ornamental items.
- Objects made of ivory have religious importance in certain countries and that is one of the main factors for the increase in its demand.
- Ivory can be taken from dead elephants but more often than not, elephants in Africa and Asia are killed in hundred’s for their tusks.
- Ivory is sold (mostly illegally) to countries like China, Japan, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore.
- In 2011 alone, 34.7 tonnes of illegal ivory was seized globally. That equals 31,500 dead elephants.
- Ivory has been used by people to make various (mostly decorative/religious) objects for centuries. Many Syrian and North African elephant species were driven to extinction (even in the early days) due to illegal ivory poaching.
- In just ten years (during the 1980’s) African elephant population were halved (due to poaching) and a lot of countries banned inter-country ivory trading. However, illegal ivory smuggling network is quite active.
- eBay banned sales of ivory based products in 2008. The Govt. of US and various other countries have banned ivory imports.
Like how we conveniently blame the politicians for anything wrong happening in the country, it is equally simple/easy to blame the poachers for killing of the elephants for their tusks. While I agree that what they are doing is dastardly, think for a second – Why would the poachers kill elephants if there was no demand for ivory? Why would elephants be hunted if we stop buying anything made of ivory?
Even before researching for this article, I was very much aware that elephants are being hunted in large numbers across Asia and Africa for their tusks. So, the excuse that ‘I was so ignorant about all this and I thought that ivory based objects are made only out of tusks from dead elephants’ is not very convincing.
Even after knowing that buying ivory directly encourages killing of elephants, the filthy rich (filthy and rich) people continue to buy ivory products particularly in China, Japan and Asia-Pacific. I am not sure if Indians also fancy ornaments made of ivory/ivory-carved objects, but in my circle I don’t find anyone that inhumane.
Mostly, people make only decorative items using ivory. None of them are actually useful for anything. I can understand the craze for gold, silver, platinum and other metals for making decorative items. At least, animals are not killed for making them. But going, ‘Oh so cute’ on ivory? I think only sadists can do that. For people who consider these objects as a ‘status-symbol’, it only shows that you are clueless about where to spend your money.
Japan is a country that I respect a lot. To get to know that ivory trade flourishes in Japan, hurts me. Have you ever seen objects made of white marble/white porcelain? Didn’t you notice that these objects can be more beautiful than anything made of ivory? The difference is, elephants can peacefully live in jungles if you buy such items instead of buying ivory.