Monday, May 02, 2016

Tracking the Illegal Ivory Trade

Maps in the News: Elephant Poaching

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya burned more than $150 million worth of ivory tusks this weekend as a statement that the country is serious about ending the illegal ivory trade.  The tusks were recovered from poachers and seizures at airports and ports.  Poachers (heavily armed with military supplies) have wiped out tens of thousands of elephants across Africa in order to feed the illegal ivory pipeline to China and other countries.  Most countries around the world follow an international ban on ivory signed in 1989, but many Asian countries participate in a massive black market of ivory goods.

National Geographic created an online interactive map, Tracking the Illegal Tusk Trade.  The map details the tracking of smuggled ivory by investigative journalist Bryan Christy.  The September 2015 National Geographic Magazine cover story describes how Christy commissioned a taxidermist to create two fake ivory tusks.  The tusks were embedded with special GPS tracking devices.

Christy tracked the smugglers as the tusks were transported from the Garamba National Park in the Congo into the Central African Republic into South Sudan and then Sudan.  The tusks are smuggled in part to finance armies in Africa, including the Lord’s Resistance Army and other terror groups.  The price of the tusks increases with each stop along the supply chain until the ivory reaches its final destination, mostly in Asia.  (China is the largest market for the ivory).

National Geographic created the maps (above, click to enlarge) to depict the environmental crisis.  The graphs (red elephants) show the number of illegal kills in Africa in 2011.  The last chart shows the ten countries with the most ivory seized from 1989 to 2011.

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