The tiny West African country of Togo has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the world’s leading hubs for smuggling ivory from across Africa. Having made two major ivory busts over the last week, however, it appears that the country might be succeeding in its efforts to combat smuggling.
Over the course of the past week, approximately 4 tons of ivory has been seized. All four containers are believed to be a part of the same shipment destined for Vietnam. So far, two Togolese men and one Vietnamese citizen have been arrested. The containers were found at Lome port in the capital city.
Ivory smuggling threatening to wipe out jungle elephants
Ivory smuggling has become a major issue across Africa. It is believed that approximately 60% of forest elephants in Central Africa have been wiped out within the last ten years. By some estimates, forest elephants could become extinct within ten years if nothing is done to halt, or at least curb, the poaching.
In 1990, the trade and export of ivory was largely banned. In the years following the ban, many elephant populations began to recover. With the elephant population beginning to recover, however, some African governments rescinded their support of the ivory ban and poaching once again became widespread.
Clintons and other world leaders pledge support
This past fall, Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea Clinton, announced $80 million dollars in funding to be distributed over 3 years to curb poaching. The pledge will be made through the Clinton Global Initiative and will support a wide arrange of efforts to curb poaching.
Among other things, some 3,100 additional park officers will be hired, sniffer dogs will be provided, and efforts for passing stronger anti-trafficking laws will be supported. So far, various African leaders have announced their support of the program and have pledged to do their part in curbing smuggling.
Demand from Asia fueling poaching
Most of the smuggled ivory is being exported to Asia, where demand for it has exploded in recent years. Many people across Asia are finding themselves with extra discretionary income to spend, and unfortunately ivory is becoming a hot commodity.
Ivory is considered a luxury good by many and exemplifying the status of wealth, with a single tusk being worth thousands of dollars. Besides status, ivory is used by many people for religious trinkets. For various reasons, some people believe that ivory has certain spiritual properties.