Editor’s note: The following op-ed appeared in Scientific American in response to the Trump Administration’s recent announcements on the import of elephant trophies. Read the original post »
U.S. President Trump is questioning whether to maintain a ban on importing elephant trophies into the United States. Maun, a small, dusty town at the gateway to the world’s largest population of elephants, may hold the answers he seeks.
Maun sits within the Okavango Delta in Botswana, where elephants thrive. Huge elephant guns have been banned for years, and research shows that even elephants know the area is safe: Populations from nearby countries with high poaching rates have been fleeing to Botswana.
For Conservation International CEO M. Sanjayan, being in Maun drives home the value of keeping elephants alive — and the inherent fallacy of conflating trophy hunting with conservation and economic value.
Today, there are only 350,000 African savanna elephants left in the wild, marking a decline of 30 percent in less than a decade. To help combat this, Botswana is leading the Elephant Protection Initiative, a coalition of 15 African nations committed to closing their ivory markets and eliminating or placing their ivory stockpiles out of commercial use. The Initiative is, Sanjayan writes, an African stand for Africa’s elephants.
“At this crucial moment in time, when the world is finally a hair’s breadth away from ending the trade in ivory, the Trump Administration can set this right. And together, we can stop the scourge of poaching, and the use of ivory as fuel for criminal gangs and terror networks.”
Sophie Bertazzo is a senior editor at Conservation International.