“Battle of the Elephants” – The Illegal Network of Ivory Trade
In the chapter of “Jumping Monkey Hill” on page 113, Ujunwa visited a jewelry shop and got herself a necklace made from faux ivory. It turned out the tooth-shaped pendant was a real ivory, but people had to kill the innocent elephants in Africa to find the ivory that fulfilled the market high quality demand. The documentary that I watched uncovered how the ivory trade indicated numerous criminal acts within the business.
It is such a disheartening fact that elephants in Africa are taken for granted, primarily, for the sake of gaining profits. The illegal ivory trade that takes place across continent, from Africa to Asia (specifically China), hurts the elephant populations in Africa despite the fact that a ban in ivory trade has been enacted since 10 years ago, but only in Kenya that the law seemed to be effectively enforced.
This leads to the question of “why ivory tusk”?
In the beginning of the documentary, the speaker clearly mentioned that ivory tusk represented “perfection, purity, and in time, money.” Through this statement, we could get a sense of how powerful that elephant as wildlife resource was in Africa. It then entailed the high supply from the African government to the Chinese demand of ivory tusk. As China’s economic growing, the demand of ivory tusks was also increasing, whereas the number of elephants were greatly decreasing until it reached around 600,000 species in 1989 from 10 million species in the previous years. Ivory tusks from various countries were packed in around 6000 containers each day and smuggled from Africa to a port in Hong Kong before fully crafted into beautiful and expensive art displays in a Beijing art store that were worth more than hundreds of thousands of dollar. The store associates knew the political or religious reasons behind the ivory tusk, but they did not recognize the more complex relationship that included the corrupt government and animal welfare problems. Nonetheless, the importance of ivory tusk expanded beyond economic profit. The Chinese, moreover, believed that ivory task was deeply rooted to their beliefs, such as Buddhism. Ivory represented ancestors’ core values as well as Buddhist faith so that the Chinese people believed that the elephants should feel happy because the tusks celebrated the Buddha and preserved the legacy of the belief.