Rockvale, TN, January 5, 2013-------This is probably the kind of thing one is not permitted to do on the internet. I suppose I'll find out pretty quickly if it is one of those things. But I'm gonna spew my guts here and send this epistle out as far and fast as I am able, and with any luck some person with money and the balls to do something with it will read this and take action.
Couple of months ago you may have seen the feature in National Geographic about the wholesale slaughter of elephants – 25 THOUSAND last year alone – for their ivory, and about how the ivory makes its way to China where it is carved into various trinkets by skilled craftsmen and then somehow gets to the Philippines where this jaded old Catholic cardinal, bishop, whatever, collects it and has a manse chock-full of the stuff in the form of Jesus-type items. There were some pictures, but apparently the photographer was dissuaded from taking an actual picture of the monsignor(or whatever)'s huge (life-size?) crucifix made of ivory. (Note to Pope Benedict: you should maybe look into this, papa)
This doesn't account for all the ivory poached each year, but it does go a long way toward explaining the level of jerkitude involved at the consumer end of the ivory chain. After the Philippines, which seems to be the main terminus and transshipment point of all the ivory swag from China, the ivory not converted to Holy use goes to other destinations...you can probably buy some in any large coastal city on the planet. I am of course shocked, shocked I say, at the non-involvement of the Chinese government in this matter.
“Why do we let this go on and what can we do to stop it?” we bleeding hearts have been asking this question while making snowballs with our hands for the last twenty-five years. (October 7, 1988 "AFRICAN ELEPHANT CONSERVATION ACT” 16 U.S.C. 4201-4245, as amended 1992) Here at least and in most of the rest of the world as well.
The remedy has been the one that has worked so well with the preservation of the mountain gorilla. Send in some armed rangers to apprehend the poachers. Wait. That didn't work out so well, actually. Ask the 300 or so mountain gorillas left.
Today in the New York Times, the watering hole where we liberal antelope go to drink in the daily blab and become impotently infuriated, I saw this morsel:
As ivory poaching gets more militarized, with rebels and even armies slaughtering elephants across Africa, rangers are wading into the bush to confront hardened soldiers. (NY Times, Jan 5, 2013)
Well, this is not working out well. You got these underpaid but well-meaning, we'll assume, wildlife rangers confronting the “hardened soldiers” Africa has been turning out since, well, since post-colonialism actually, and the rangers seem to be getting the worst of it.
There are many reasons an African might turn to poaching ivory. Well, no. There's only one: Money. Africa is a hard place to live, there is no food, no drinkable water, Jim, and if killing an elephant will net me enough money to get by a little longer, to further my cause or feed my family, then chances are I'm going to take my AK-47 and go kill me a elephant. And anyone who tries to stop me.
So over here in the First World we've been shelling out dough to keep our rangers, our elephant shepherds if you will, going and they've been trying. But it ain't working out. Bust one poacher, up pops another to take his place. Because Africa is, as I just said, hard. But this has gone on for far too long.
What to do, what to do?
You can't do it from either end. You can't take out this looney archbishop (or whatever), because he's got more money than God, in fact it IS God's money, and further, there are many more heartless and selfish bastards like him out there, and you can't take out enough poachers to make a dent on the supply end.
The solution to the problem.
Since we can't get at the problem from either end, we have to approach it from the middle. This makes sense, as it is in the middle that the greatest crime actually occurs. And it is in the middle that the chain has its weakest link. Why do poachers poach? Money. Who pays them the money? Why, the broker sitting in Mogadishu or whatever eastern African port where this stuff flows through on its way to China. Take out the broker, and you take out the money. When the broker's brother-in-law shows up to take his place, take him out, too. Continue taking out brokers and it becomes too risky for them to continue buying ivory. The price of ivory becomes too high. The brokers hire guards. You buy a drone. They escalate. You escalate more.
Why, Panama, you say. This sounds like you're advocating murder. Why, yes. Yes, I am. But I'm advocating for elephants, too.
So if there are any well-heeled, ballsy liberals out there reading this, you know what to do.
Every week last year, 500African elephants were murdered. This carnage can be stopped, and the only way to do it is what I've just said.