It's said that elephants never forget -- but given current poaching trends, in a little over a decade the iconic species will itself be just a memory.
According to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a conservation charity based in Kenya, last year alone some 36,000 African elephants were slaughtered to fuel the illicit ivory trade -- a rate equivalent to one elephant killed every 15 minutes.
The Trust's Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick warns that, unless elephants are protected from this threat, it may be just 12 years before the species is wiped out in the wild. Sadly, however, the ivory trade has shown no sign of slowing, largely driven by demand from the Chinese market, where 70 percent of maliciously-gained product is believed to end up.
“A world without elephants is hard to comprehend, but it is a real possibility," Sheldrick tells the Express. "Against a submachine gun or poacher armed with a spear, they stand little chance.”
While much is being done on the ground to protect elephants on Africa's sprawling wildlife reserves from poachers, Sheldrick says that the most effective way to save them in the long term is to raise awareness among purchasers of ivory products who might not realize the wider implications of that decision.
“Don’t buy ivory. That means all ivory, be it antique or pre-ban, in the UK or on holiday," she says.“Buying ivory only serves to fuel a trade which results in more senseless deaths of these beautiful animals. We can’t let man-made extinction be the end of this iconic species."