Every 15 minutes, an African elephant is killed for its ivory. According to National Geographic, over 100,000 elephants have been brutally murdered by poachers in the last three years alone, with up to 300 animals being gunned down by machine guns in single, mass poaching events. Africa has already lost 60 percent of its wild elephants and if this rate continues, the species is expected to go extinct within the next ten years. For those of us who have never seen a wild African elephant, or even ivory for that matter, it is difficult to imagine the magnitude of the situation, or how it affects us all. But in this world, everything is interconnected.
In an attempt to draw attention to the atrocity of ivory poaching, artist Kevin Van Braak submitted this thought provoking piece to the international outdoor art exhibit Lustwarande, in Tilburg, Netherlands. This life-sized wooden sculpture depicts an elephant carcass with the tusks carved out, inviting us to see up close and in gory detail, the terrible sight that so many rangers are finding every day.
Carved out of teak, the delicate details in this sculpture are so realistic that they truly capture the butchery that threatens each of these animals every day. Looking lifelessly ahead, the eyes seem to ask the question that all of us must start to ask ourselves, “Is this how it will end for all of Africa’s elephants?”
With ivory fetching up to $3,000 per kilo in China, elephant poaching is, unfortunately, big business. Funded by international crime and terrorist groups, many of these poachers are highly organized and armed, with machine guns, grenades, and other black market military weapons. They are not only a danger to elephants; each year hundreds of rangers are killed trying to protect these animals. In a vicious circle, much of the money that these groups earn from selling poached tusks goes to support corrupt politicians, organized crime, terrorism and paramilitary rebel operations, all over the world. If real action is not taken to put an end to this, the bloody cycle will continue to claim lives, both animal and human, making the elephant problem everyone’s problem, indeed.
All image source: Kevin Van Braak