Hung, poisoned and mutilated alive: our atrocious abuse of elephants

Elephants are among the most intelligent, gentle creatures on the planet. Yet they have suffered for centuries at the hand of man.

Share
Related Topics

Gentle, friendly elephants were part of our childhood landscape.

We grew up with Dumbo and Babar,  singing ‘Nellie The Elephant’ as we hugged our cuddly Elmer.

Yet, close the storybook and the real narrative is brutal.  For hundreds of years, the largest land mammal on earth has been persecuted to almost the point of extinction by its greatest enemy- man.

Much of their suffering has been due to hunters coveting their ivory tusks. Yet their killers’ methods are often both creative and cruel. Elephants who are killed for their ivory often die slow, agonising deaths after being shot several times. In Zimbabwe, more than 80 elephants  died after poachers poisoned their watering holes with cyanide. One particularly barbarous tactic sees poachers target a baby elephant in order to goad the mother, making it easier to shoot her and remove her tusk. Often, the tusks are removed whilst the elephant is still alive and suffering.

Seized ivory tusks are displayed in Hong Kong

Their persecution is nothing new. Elephant ivory trade can be traced back as early as the 14th century BC, but it was during the 17th and 18th centuries that it evolved into a major export. Slaves brought ivory back to Britain to be used for jewellery and piano keys amongst others (there is a wide range of 18th century ivory jewellery on show at The British Museum). Around 1000 tonnes of ivory was brought to Europe at the peak of colonisation.

It was after World War Two that the ivory trade evolved to how we know it today. During the 1980s, the ivory trade was unregulated, and as a result, around 700,000 elephants were killed in one decade alone. In 1990, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) decided to impose restrictions on the ivory trade, leading to a ban.

Today, poachers across Africa and Asia continue to persecute elephants for their tusks- which now have a value of around £40,000 each. The trade is now particularly large in China and Japan

However, sadly for the elephants, several countries including Zimbabwe and South Africa, chose to ignore the ban. Their reasoning for the continuing trade is that revenue from the ivory trade goes towards conservation work.

Elephants have also suffered as human ‘attractions’, a kind of exotic entertainment for the masses.

Shockingly, some British circuses were still using elephants as part of their act as late as 2009.  Cruelty has often been a feature of training, with beatings and electric shocks.This mishandling has often lead to tragedy. In 1903, Topsy the elephant was electrocuted in New York after he killed his trainer- who had burnt his trunk with a lit cigar. And in 1919, a young trainer, Red Eldridge was killed by Mary, a circus elephant in Tennessee, after he used a painful hook on her ear. Mary was then publicly executed in front of 2,500 people. She had to be hung twice, after the first attempt only succeeded in breaking her hip.

Today, just 650,000 elephants remain on the planet, and they are in real danger of extinction. By supporting Space For Giants through the Independent’s Christmas Appeal, we can help ensure that these majestic creatures begin to be treated worldwide with the respect that they deserve.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/campaigns/elephant-campaign/

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific