March 5 - Kenya will be pushing for a crackdown on the illegal ivory trade in Asia at this week's Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), in Bangkok, Thailand. Conservationists in Kenya's famous national parks are reporting limited success with the tracking of elephant herds to better protect them, but a surge in poaching and rising demand for ivory is still taking its toll on elephant numbers and only an end to the trade, they say, will save them. Rob Muir reports.
TV AND WEB RESTRICTIONS~**NONE*~ It's an icon of Africa....but for ivory poachers in Kenya, the elephant is a prime target. So...conservationsists are targetting them as well. Here in the Amboseli National park, they are sedating, tagging and fitting six elephants with GPS collars, so they can be tracked from the air, and protected from increasingly sophisticated gangs of ivory poachers. r It's dangerous work. SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. JEREMIAH POGHON, KENYA WILDLIFE SERVICE (KWS) VETERINARY DOCTOR SPECIALISED IN WILDLIFE MEDICINE, SAYING: "It can go very well and sometimes it can just go upside down. You know, these are wild animals, they are not used to human beings, any interference. Whether you want to help it, whether you want to treat it, it doesn't know that you want to treat it, it might even think, like, you are the cause of his problem." But veterinanrian Dr Jeremiah Poghon such measures are essential if the African elephant is to be protected. The demand in Asia for ivory from elephant tusks is rising and for poachers the profit in killing an elephant is worth the risk of being caught. China and Thailand are the world's largest illegal ivory markets, supplied in part by the poachers working in Amboselli. Steve Njumbi of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, says more than 30000 elephants have been killed by poachers in the past 16 months. SOUNDBITE) (English) STEVE NJUMBI, HEAD OF PROGRAMMES WITH THE INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE (IFAW), SAYING: "There is a misconception amongst most of those who demand or want to use the ivory, that ivory falls off the animal just like hair does. Message to them: people in China, people in Thailand: an elephant must die violently, very very violently, and rangers at risk, and then probably the tusks are chopped off when it is still alive, so they are not caught at the site." The tusks end up as trinkets or expensive figurines favoured by Asia's rising affluent class. The illegal trade will be at the forefront of debate at this week's Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species meeting in Bangkok. Meanwhile here on the plains of southern Kenya, the conservation team says GPS collaring can only do so much. They say that unless the trade is stopped, the elephant's chances for long-term survival diminish by the day.