Connect the dots: infant mortality, graft and elephant poaching

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Tue, 2014-01-14 16:40 by Hans

REUTERS - By Ed Stoddard

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters)—What do infant mortality and elephant poaching have in common? Plenty, according to conservation groups.

Researchers have for the first time made clear connections between elephant poaching in Africa, which has been surging to meet soaring ivory demand in Asia, and factors such as poverty, as shown by high rates of child deaths, and corruption.

These links have always been suspected but never pinned down with hard data.

The findings come in a report prepared for an African elephant summit in Botswana in December by groups including TRAFFIC, which tracks the global trade in wildlife products, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Areas where child mortality and poverty are worst also see higher levels of elephant poaching, but poor villagers typically do not benefit from the illicit ivory trade.

In this regard, the ivory trade—with its long and blood-stained history—is similar to other extractive industries in Africa, which have been exploited to meet demand elsewhere with few rewards for local people.

Demand for ivory—used for carvings and valued for millennia for its color and texture—has been rising sharply in newly affluent Asian countries, notably China, fuelling a new wave of elephant slaughter.

Following a decline in the 1990s, poaching of the world's largest land mammal has risen dramatically and in 2012 an estimated 15,000 elephants were illegally killed at 42 sites in Africa monitored by MIKE—the U.N.-backed program for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants.

Since 2010, elephant poaching levels in Africa have exceeded 5 percent of the total population—a tipping point because killings are now outpacing the animals' birth rate. …

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