Gentle Giants

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A Losing Battle

In 1900, elephants, the planet’s largest land creature, had a population of over 10 million worldwide. But with the rise of international trade and the sale of ivory, these friendly giants were no match for poachers and hunters. It wasn’t until ninety years had passed that the impact of the ivory trade really sank in.1 In 1990, with the elephant decimated to less than one million, the international ivory trade was finally declared illegal in an effort to slow the damage that had already been done.

This world wide ban, however, did not stop trade within the African continent. Ivory sales continued, trophy hunting continued, and the elephant population continued to disappear. Botswana, however, decided to make a change. Home to over 100,000 elephants,2 Botswana is also the largest concentrations of elephants in the world.3 So, in 2014, Botswana became the first country to pass a countrywide ban on elephant hunting in hopes to change the tides in the plummeting elephant numbers.

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Finding a Balance

Yet, this ban did not solve all of the problems for the country. With elephants protected, isolated farmers are still faced with the issue of how to protect their crops. A traveling herd of elephants could destroy an entire harvest over night.4 Organizations like, WWF have begun stepping in and making efforts to help farmers protect their crops while still keeping the gentle giants safe.5 For decades, with the diamond industry bolstering the economy, it has helped Botswana to place focus on conservation. While things are not perfect, and the country is still trying to find a balance, Botswana hopes to not only be an example to their neighbors but to also slowly build the elephants back to their former glory.

Learn more how Botswana overcame an epidemic that threatened their whole population.

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Sources:

1. The History of the Ivory Trade
2. BBC: Why elephants are seeking refuge in Botswana
3. African Wildlife Foundation: Botswana
4. WWF: Human-Elephant Conflict
5. WWF: Human-Elephant Conflict