December 29, 2011

Conservation Lows

More than a dozen dead elephants in one box.

This year wasn't a particularly good one for a lot of people, mostly due to the world economy, but it was a particularly bad one for endangered animals. In addition to smuggling, a man releasing his private zoo before offing himself and the essential acceptance of global climate change as legitimate fact, poaching was steeply on the rise in 2011. More than 400 rhinos were poached this year (compared to less than 15 just 4 years ago) and thousands of elephants were killed for their tusks. Millions of dollars worth of illegal ivory was confiscated and showed that poachers are getting smart in the ways they kill elephants and transport ivory to Asia.

Which really pisses me off. As awful as rhino poaching is and as useless as it is (really, Asia? Powdered rhino horn is going to cure your cancer?) at least they believe it has medicinal properties so valuable that they'll pay it's weight in gold for even a few ounces. Elephant tusks, on the other hand, are used purely for decoration. Ivory is carved into shapes (sometimes, for irony, in elephant shapes), used to adorn silverware and handles and added around the house to show off wealth. How fucking vain. Oh, and sometimes elephant feet are also chopped off to be used as a side table to display more wealthy shit. Even ivory. Cause, you know, that's high fashion. And totally worth causing an entire species to decline and untold amounts of pain and suffering.

Again, I'm left to wonder what will happen when these animals do disappear from the planet because, let's be real, it's only a matter of time for most of them. There's only one species of rhino that is doing alright and that's only because of extreme protection, and even they had record deaths this year, and the rest are on the fast track to extinction. I'm still not sure what people will do when there's no more supply of rhino horn... will the existing horns skyrocket in price? Will Asian medicines be altered to include parts from other animals? Will the other animals used in Asian medicine be poached even more (bye bye tigers)? Will people realize they were silly to think that rhino horn or tiger penis had any benefits whatsoever and shrug that they're gone now? Will ivory become even more prized and will people begin hurting each other for a piece?

And what about the rest of us? I'm always one to revel in "I told you so," but (to quote my favorite movie butler/caretaker), "on that day... even I won't want to."

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