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August 22, 2014

A Big Problem

Ending the trade in ivory could save elephants from going extinct

Kind News magazine, Aug/Sept 2014

  • Micawildlife/Alamy

When it comes to size, African elephants have all other land animals beat. They are even larger than their cousins, the Asian elephants. But even though they are so much bigger than us, we are their biggest threat.

About 30,000 African elephants are killed each year for their tusks. People buy jewelry, trinkets and chess sets made from the ivory tusks. There are less than 500,000 African elephants left on the planet. Unless the trade in ivory is stopped, African elephants could become extinct in your lifetime.

Stepping up

Countries around the world are starting to come to the aid of the elephants. The two largest ivory markets—China and the United States—are leading the effort to stop the slaughter of elephants. In February, the White House announced that it will act to put a stop to the ivory trade in the U.S. To show that it means business, the U.S. government crushed nearly 6 tons of illegal ivory that it had confiscated.

The Chinese government then crushed 6 tons of its own illegal ivory stockpiles. “It’s an excellent first step,” says Iris Ho, Humane Society International wildlife program manager. The governments are sending a message that ivory is not welcome in their countries. Now others are joining in the fight against ivory traffickers. France destroyed 3 tons of ivory, and Hong Kong pledged to destroy their 29 tons of illegal ivory.

Kids can help

“Kids can educate their families, friends and communities about the crisis,” says Ho. They can ask them to pledge to never buy elephant ivory. If no one is buying ivory products, the killing will stop. Elephants will be saved.

The awesome elephant

There are two kinds of elephants: African and Asian. African elephants are the larger of the two. Their huge ears are shaped similar to the continent of Africa. 

  • Mitsuyoshi Tatematsu/Minden Pictures

Did you know? Elephants

  • use their trunks to grab things. They also use them to suck up water and then pour it into their mouths or shower themselves to cool off.
  • eat grass, leaves, bark, roots and fruit.
  • live in close family groups led by an elder female. The females help each other care for the young and the sick.
  • can live for 60 to 70 years.
  • use their tusks to dig for food and water and strip bark from trees. Males also use their tusks to fight off other animals.
  • are very smart and can communicate over long distances using low frequency sounds.
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