Business Day (South Africa)

LETTER: A legal elephant industry

Picture: 123RF/CHRIS FOURIE

Picture: 123RF/CHRIS FOURIE

If Paula Kahumbu is correct in saying in the article headlined Poachers will wipe out SA’s elephants next (August 30) that elephant “poachers and dealers are moving south”, this indicates that there is still a large and sustained demand for elephant products.

With proper production, processing and export systems in place, SA and neighbouring countries could capitalise on this strong international demand. It could generate substantive revenues and employment opportunities for rural areas capable of supplying these products.

Before the global ban on the trade in elephant goods came into effect in 1989, Kruger Park managed a highly lucrative elephant production and processing system delivering goods to international markets – meat to Germany, hide to the US and ivory to Japan.

Kruger and other parks such as Addo continue to export elephant services (tourism) as the international trade in elephant services was never banned.

Over the decades since the ivory trade ban, Kenya’s population of elephants has declined. This was predicted as early as 1990 in a paper that concluded that “the rate of decline is presently accelerating”.

“The process is well advanced in East Africa where few elephants are predicted to survive beyond 1995 outside high-security areas.”

Fortunately, as Kahumbu points out, recent efforts to convict poachers in Kenya are having some success.

If indeed “Kenya’s success has driven the poachers to SA”, we need to look at opportunities to replace these poachers with a legal and inclusive industry supplying elephant products sustainably and profitably to international markets.

It’s time we think about managing the African elephant as a sustainable economic resource rather than watch it disappear completely outside of high-security areas.

Dr Francis Vorhies
Switzerland