Heads up: Top comment and controversy

10 things you need to know about elephant poaching

It is a familiar cause, but it has never been more urgent. Last year, tens of thousands of Africa's elephants were killed to supply illegal ivory to markets throughout the world. Increasingly, revenue generated from this blood ivory is being used to fuel war and terrorism in Africa.

This year, our Christmas campaign aims to help put a stop to illegal elephant poaching. To find out what all the fuss is about, read our list of the 10 things you need to know about the elephant poaching crisis.

1. Big Business
Wildlife hunting is big business – a recent 2013 estimate valued the illegal poaching trade in Africa as being worth $17 billion dollars a year and growing.

2. Big Weapons
The most common poaching gun in east Africa is the AK47. Increasingly poachers spot elephant herds from helicopter and target their prey from above. On-the-ground poachers have been known to use machetes, spears and watermelons spiked with cyanide.

3. Big Profits
According to gun policy officials the going rate for a rifle in Kenya is around $100-120 – a fortune by local economic standards but a mere fraction of the money that can be made from just one elephant (a single tusk can be worth up to $240).

4. Chinese Prices
In China such a tusk would sell for more than $2000 – its value therefore increasing tenfold by the time it is shipped out of Africa and arrives in Asia.

5. Local Misunderstanding
A recent study cited by The Times found that less than a third of Chinese people surveyed knew that elephants are killed for their tusks.

6. Common mythology
A separate study showed 70 per cent think they grow back like fingernails. Another myth propagated is that elephants’ tusks fall out naturally.

7. 104 Deaths a Day
Animal rights groups estimate that poachers in Africa kill between 25,000 and 35,000 elephants annually – meaning about 104 die a day.

8. An Offence Without Prosecution
Of the 157 poaching-related cases detected in Kenya in the past three years, less than five per cent have been prosecuted and only three of those convicted were sentenced to jail.

9. Pulverizing the Trade
The Obama administration destroyed the US reserve of elephant tusks on November 5, 2013 – announcing that the pulverizing of 6 tons (5.4 tonnes) of ‘blood ivory’ would send out the right message to the world.

10. Not Far from Human
Elephants are more like us than you may know. They can be gay, left-handed, have the ability to grieve and – true to reputation – have amazing memories.

To donate to our Christmas campaign now, go here.

React Now

Read Next

The daily catch-up: heatwave update; duck tape and market socialism

John Rentoul
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform