VORY WARSSome of the last big tuskers gather in Tsavo, Kenya. A single large tusk sold on the local black market can bring $6,000, enough to support an unskilled Kenyan worker for ten years.
Bodies are what remain in Cameroon’s Bouba Ndjidah National Park after one of the largestmass elephant slaughters in decades. Armed with grenades and AK-47s, poachers killed more than 300.
The home of a Filipino collector is lavish with ivory religious icons. “I don’t see the elephant,” says another Filipino collector. “I see the Lord.”
A worker in China’s largestivory-carving factory finishes apiece symbolizing prosperity.China legally bought 73 tons ofivory from Africa in 2008; sincethen, poaching and smugglinghave both soared.
Smugglers failed to get this contraband past Kenya’s law enforcement, but the animals are still gone. Small tusks indicate that young elephants were poached.
Kruba Dharmamuni, aka the Elephant Monk, keeps Asian elephants at his temple in Thailand. Activistsaccuse him of starving one elephant to use its ivory for amulets, a charge he rejects.
To keep the ivory from the black market, a plainclothes ranger hacks the tusks off a bull elephantkilled illegally in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. In the first half of this year six park rangers died protecting Kenya’s elephants; meanwhile, rangers killed 23 poachers.
A Chinese reporter in Kenya covers the 2011 burning of 5.5 tons of smuggled ivory. Kenyahelped launch a global ivory ban in 1989 but lately has been stockpiling its ivory. The ivory here belonged to other countries.
A sculpture like this can take a master carver years to produce. Front and center are the popularTaoist gods Shou, Lu, and Fu—symbols of long life, money, and luck. “We hope—no, we insist— we can continue to protect these skills,” says Wang Shan, secretary-general of the China Arts and Crafts Association.
Filipino master ivory carver Marcial Bernales transforms an elephant tusk into the head and hands of the Madonna. His first love is carving wood, but ivory has a special draw. “Much high prices,” he says. Smuggled ivory flows to Asia via the Philippines, itself a destination for illegal ivory, which is carved into religious icons and often smuggled to other countries, including theUnited States. Raw tusks are not Bernales’s only medium—the heads of some of his saints began as billiard balls.
A cemetery for privately owned elephants in Surin, Thailand, shows deep devotion. Thailandallows internal trading of ivory from domesticated Asian elephants, and smuggled African ivory finds its way into the mix.
Slaking their thirst at a dry season water hole on the Salamat River, elephants in ZakoumaNational Park have flourished, with their numbers growing from 1,100 to around 3,500 during the past 21 years. Outside the park, the scene is not so benign.
Skin and bones are all that remain of the 20 elephants killed last May just outside the southernborder of Zakouma National Park. Poachers hauled away the ivory, leaving park officials with an ongoing challenge: How to protect herds that wander beyond the parks protective umbrella.
When one matriarch searches for food outside Zakouma, a herd of 800 elephants falls in behind. Wise old females, responsible for the well-being of family groups, know every trail and creek crossing, every village and road. They know where dangers lie, and where to find the best forage.
Armed guards patrol Zakouma, but theyre outnumbered by poachers—and outgunned. In thepast eight years, six guards have been killed by poachers, and at least six poachers by guards.
After ivory poachers hacked the face off a 20-year-old elephant, park guards were left with few clues and a cold trail.
Park guards will lock up these tusks, but the men who killed the elephant got away. Seizures ofillegal ivory reached record levels in 2005. In China—the fastest growing consumer—dealers sell worked ivory on the Internet, shipping it worldwide./
Water holes are in short supply at the end of the dry season, when as many as 500 elephantscan converge on this pool near Tinga. By June, torrential rains engulf the park, and the herds leave in search of better food. At Zakouma, sanctuary comes and goes with the seasons.