National Geographic - BLOOD IVORY
Ivory Worship - FREE Feature Download
Thousands of elephants die each year so that their tusks can be carved into religious objects. Can the slaughter be stopped?
By Bryan Christy
Photograph by Brent Stirton
Issue: October 2012
IN JANUARY 2012 A HUNDRED RAIDERS ON HORSEBACK CHARGED OUT OF CHAD INTO CAMEROON’S BOUBA NDJIDAH NATIONAL PARK, SLAUGHTERING HUNDREDS OF ELEPHANTS — entire families — in one of the worst concentrated killings since a global ivory trade ban was adopted in 1989. Carrying AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, they dispatched the elephants with a military precision reminiscent of a 2006 butchering outside Chad’s Zakouma National Park. And then some stopped to pray to Allah. Seen from the ground, each of the bloated elephant carcasses is a monument to human greed.
Elephant poaching levels are currently at their worst in a decade, and seizures of illegal ivory are at their highest level in years. From the air too the scattered bodies present a senseless crime scene — you can see which animals fled, which mothers tried to protect their young, how one terrified herd of 50 went down together, the latest of the tens of thousands of elephants killed across Africa each year. Seen from higher still, from the vantage of history, this killing field is not new at all. It is timeless, and it is now.
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Investigative reporter Bryan Christy’s January 2010 story,"The Kingpin", exposed wildlife trafficker Anson Wong. Documentary photographer Brent Stirton’s March 2012 "Rhino Wars" won a World Press award.