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Armed with AK-47s, grenades, and other firearms, poachers will kill relentlessly in order to get hold of the “white gold” we know as ivory. In Asia, the demand for ivory is huge. Prized for ornamental use and seen as an ideal material for carving, this infatuation with ivory has led to the mass killings of elephants throughout Asia and Africa. One hundred African elephants are killed every day by poachers seeking ivory; it is estimated.
But it’s not just the demand for ivory that is driving elephants to the brink of extinction. Did you know that in addition to tusks, elephant skin, hair, and dung are used for various products? Unfortunately, the demand for these products is also driving elephants to their end. But as a consumer, you have the power to reduce that demand. Here are three elephant products to watch out for:
1. Elephant Leather
Thick and durable with its rippled texture, elephant skin is used in everything from bags and belts to gun holders, and flask coverings. You can even buy it on eBay. That’s because it’s actually, unbelievably, legal, provided one complies to the conditions laid out by the Convention of International Treaty of Endangered Species (CITES). Based primarily in the United States and imported from Africa, the elephant leather market trades freely through the internet, meaning numerous companies are selling elephant skin online. An average price is about $400 for eight square feet.
Even popular brands, like Nike, sell elephant leather shoes in its customizable line, Perfectly Made Kicks, in which top-paying clients, like Jay-Z, can create their own shoes with their choice of at least five different exotic animal skins. Roje Exotic American Leathers, another one of the many online companies selling elephant skin, defends their use by saying, “The source of all African elephant skins come from culls once the elephant herd reaches destructive numbers to African tribes and nature.” Although many sellers claim they never sell poached hides, and instead claim that it’s the byproduct of an elephant, it’s clear that elephants are obviously being killed – either for their tusks or their skins. We don’t think this justifies the killings of a highly intelligent, endangered species purely for vanity reasons.
Elephant leather is found in items ranging from designer handbags to Nike sneakers on the U.S. market.
2. Elephant Hair
For centuries, mythology has believed that wearing an elephant hair bracelet would protect you from illness and bring you prosperity. Innocent, it may seem, but unfortunately, many of the elephant hair bracelets that are sold today come from either culled or poached elephants, or plucked from the tail of live elephants in captivity. Last year, authorities in Senegal broke up a ring of traffickers selling jewelry made from the hair at the end of an elephant’s tail, confiscating more than 450 items including bangles, rings and bundles of hair worth around $65,000 during a raid. It’s best to avoid elephant hair at all costs. Otherwise, you could be fueling the mass killings of elephants through Asia and Africa.
An elephant is held in chains as a man plucks out the tail hairs with his teeth.
3. Elephant Dung
Because not much of an elephant’s food is broken down in its digestive process, much food passes through their systems in an untouched state. We admit, it’s a bit on the gross side, but elephant fecal matter is actually crucial to its position as a super-keystone species since dung beetles and birds feed off this nutrient-laden matter filled with seeds and other vegetation (appetizing, we know). Because it is so fibrous, humans have come to use elephant dung for compost, to fill holes in the roads. Some businesses even boast elephant dung in their coffee (with a $50 per cup price tag), or use it to make paper. The problem is, while it may appear on the surface to be harmless or even so-called “sustainable,” as some of these companies tout, many of the elephants providing the dung are living in captivity in the tourism or working-elephant industry. In order to create such products from elephant dung, these highly intelligent and sensitive animals are being forced to live away from the wild, for human profit. Imagine living in chains just so people can ride you and collect your waste!
Elephant dung is collected to make pricey coffee at a Thailand tourist destination.
What You Can Do
If you want to be a hero for elephants, the best thing you can do is avoid purchasing any elephant-derived products full-stop. Elephant leather, hair, and notebooks can all be easily purchased online but you are the consumer, and you have the decision to say no. The only being that needs elephant parts is an elephant. To further the impact, share this article with your friends and family and urge them not to buy any elephant products.
Lead image source: Caitlin