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Simon Baines

Elephants use tusks for stripping trees, moving objects, fighting and display. Humans have other uses for tusks – or ivory – such as jewellery, piano keys and billiard balls.

Although ivory has been valued for centuries, large-scale killing of elephants for ivory did not begin until about 1900. By the 1970s and 1980s, poaching became a serious problem.

Between 1979 and 1992, the numbers of elephants plunged from 1.3 million to about 600,000. Elephants were in danger. Those protecting the elephants chose a simple solution: ban the sale of ivory, and the poachers will find it difficult to make a living.

The ban on ivory sales worked. Elephant populations grew fast in southern Africa. But they also began to damage crops and chase villagers.

This created a problem for those protecting the wildlife. Angry villagers were demanding that elephants should be taken away from areas near humans – even killed. One solution was to let local people have control of the way the elephants were managed. But how could you make villagers want to look after the elephants?

So the authorities began to allow the sale of ivory as a way for the villagers to raise money. This gave them an interest in managing the elephants.

It seemed to make sense. If elephants were no longer endangered in southern Africa, shouldn’t African countries be allowed to sell ivory to fund this sort of conservation programme?

In 1998 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) lifted the ban on all trade in ivory. Money from the sale of African ivory is being used to help people live alongside the elephant.

John Newby of the World Wide Fund for Nature says that preservation alone is not enough. ‘It isn’t creating the incentives needed by ordinary Africans to see elephants as a valuable resource and not just a pest,’ says Newby.

So far it has been the tourist industry – airlines and hotels – that has made money from African wildlife. Now that local people can sell ivory again, the elephants are at last bringing wealth to their human neighbours.

Source: New English Digest


tusks: colmillos
billiard balls:
bolas de billar
large-scale killing: matanza a gran escala
poaching: caza ilegal
cayó, se desplomó
ban: prohibir
poachers: cazadores ilegales
to damage crops: a dañar las cosechas
chase: a perseguir (a los)
to look after: proteger, cuidar

as a way for: como una forma de que
to raise: cobrar, cobraran
no longer endangered: ya no estaban en peligro
be allowed to: ser autorizados a
lifted the ban:
levantaron la prohibición
pest: peste
so far:
hasta la fecha
at last: por fin
wealth: riqueza