New initiatives generate hope for the end of elephant poaching

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A Ton of Illegal Ivory Crushed In Times Square

By ALEXIS BENVENISTE

The human desire for ivory has always existed, and as long as the demand remains, elephants will continue to be poached for their tusks. While poaching has always been a prominent issue, the elephant poaching rate has recently increased, and now it is higher than ever. The elephant poaching issue is clearly indicated by the alarming decrease in the elephant population throughout the years. The population has decreased from 26 million elephants in 1800 to fewer than one million elephants today.

While the elephants are clearly experiencing the most negative impact from this practice, poaching is also effecting the vulture population in Africa. Poachers poison the elephant carcasses after they kill them, and this means a lack of food for the vultures, pushing the vulture population closer to extinction.

Recently, scientists have been able to identify and locate poaching hotspots through a matching process that links the DNA fingerprint of seized ivory to find DNA profiles from the feces of elephants living throughout the continent. After analyzing the DNA, researchers found that poaching was the biggest problem in Tanzania and nearby parts of Mozambique.

Although the poaching is the biggest issue in those two areas, other countries such as China are facing elephant poaching issues, as well. China has recognized the issue and taken steps towards eliminating elephant poaching in the country.

While the issue is extremely prominent in African countries, some African communities are beginning to take action in an effort to decrease poaching rates and put an end to poaching altogether.

In Tanzania, tracker dogs are trained to lead game scouts to armed poachers. Last fall, the tracker dogs led game scouts to a group of armed poachers who were on the run after shooting and killing a well-known elephant just outside of Tarangire National Park. The tracker dogs in Tanzania have led many other successful operations, so the process is proving to be helpful and effective in preventing poaching in East Africa.

Damien Bell, the director of Big Life Tanzania, the conservation organization that manages the Big Life Tracker Dog Unit, said:

"Apart from their incredible tracking abilities, dogs are wonderful to work with because they don't have any political agenda—they can't be compromised."


American's are also taking a stance to end elephant poaching. Recently, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe and U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell crushed more than a ton of confiscated illegal ivory in Times Square in an effort to end elephant poaching and ivory trafficking.

While elephant poaching continues to be an issue, the first step to stopping it altogether is understanding the issue and it's impact on the elephants and our ecosystem.

See the gallery below for pictures of other endangered species:

27 PHOTOS
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New initiatives generate hope for the end of elephant poaching
Baby pygmy hippopotamus 'Lani' walks on a path on May 17, 2014 at the Basel Zoo. Lani is one around 135 pygmy hippopotamuses in the European Endangered Species Program. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini via Getty Images)
A young pileated gibbon hangs with its mother in their enclosure at the zoo in Zurich, Switzerland on Wednesday, June 21, 2006. (AP Photo/Keystone, Walter Bieri)
Two sand cats born on April 15, 2008 are pictured on April, 25, 2008 at the Amneville's zoo, eastern France. Sand cats are one of the smallest of the wild cats, ranging from Sahara in North Africa to the arid regions of Iran and Pakistan in West and South Asia. (Photo by Johanna Leguerre via AFP/Getty Images)
Rochale, a 41-year old Sumatran Orangutan holds her newborn baby at the Ramat Gan Safari park near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, Aug. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
This Mountain Pygmy Possum is part of a breeding program at Healesville Sanctuary, 10 March 2007. (Photo by Andrew De La Rue/The AGE/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
Three black footed ferrets huddle in a temporary housing unit as animal keepers at the National Zoo's conservation center in Front Royal, Va., on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. This shipment marked an important moment in the recovery of a species once declared extinct. Researchers rediscovered the black-footed ferret in 1981 and collected the last 24 in Wyoming to try to save them. Now 1,000 are again living in the wild. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Koola, an 18-year-old western lowland gorilla holds her newborn infant in her enclosure at Brookfield Zoo on November 6, 2013 in Brookfield, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Amur leopard Xembalo looks through the bars of its enclosure at the zoo in Leipzig, Germany, on April 3, 2013. (AP Photo/dpa, Hendrik Schmidt)
In this Feb. 21, 2014 photo, Biologist Armando Tovar Garza from Mexico's National Autonomous University holds a young axolotl in his hand at an experimental canal run by the university in the Xochimilco network of lakes and canals in Mexico City. Investigators have begun a search in hopes of finding what may be the last free-roaming axolotl. Not one axolotl was found during last year's effort at finding them in the wild in Xochimilco, their only natural habitat. The axolotl is known as the "water monster" and the "Mexican walking fish." (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
A critically endangered female Greater Bamboo Lemur, one of only 19 in animal collections throughout the world, looks around her enclosure after arriving from France at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park near Ashford, Kent. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Archive)
Panda cub Bao Bao hangs from a tree in her habitat at the National Zoo in Washington on her first birthday, on Aug. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A handout photo dated March 21, 2013 shows a short-eared elephant shrew swinging on his new swing in the Wilhelmina in Stuttgart, Germany. Short-eared elephant shrews grow only 22 to 24 cm long; half of the length is made up by the tail. They live in Africa and can reach a speed of up to 20 km/h. (Photo by Susanne Kern/DPA)
Owabi, a two-week-old monkey cub of the Cercopithecus roloway family, one of the 25 most endangered primate species in the world, is pictured with its mother, Nyaga, on August 2, 2012 at the zoo in Mulhouse, eastern France. (Photo by Sebstien Bozon via AFP/Getty Images)
A female Sumatran rhino named Ratu, right, is seen with her newly-born calf at Way Kambas National Park in Lampung, Indonesia, Monday, June 25, 2012. Ratu, a highly endangered Sumatran rhinoceros, gave birth to the calf Saturday in western Indonesia, a forestry official said. It is only the fifth known birth in captivity for the species in 123 years. (AP Photo)
An employee poses with an Egyptian tortoise during a photo call for Whipsnade Zoo's annual stocktake in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, north of London, on January 7, 2014. (Photo by Carl Court via AFP/Getty Images)
A zoo keeper holds a baby Philippine crocodile during the annual weigh-in to record animals vital statistics at ZSL London Zoo in London on August 21, 2014. (Photo by Carl Court via AFP/Getty Images)
The "Indian" or "Java" rhinoceros is listed as a critically endangered of extinction, this rare animal has only one horn which marks the main difference with the African type. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Cuban Greater Funnel-eared Bat. 

(Photo by Alex Borisenko/Biodiversity Institute of Ontario via Flickr)

Visitors take pictures of an angel shark as it passes above them during the public opening of The Manila Ocean Park, the country's first oceanarium on March 1, 2008, in Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Pat Roque)
In this Sept. 27, 2011 file photo, a gopher frog is seen at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. A conservation group says the federal government hasn't done enough to save the endangered dusky gopher frog because it has yet to write up a rescue plan. The Center for Biological Diversity's legal notice of plans to sue comes about three months after a property rights group filed such a notice claiming the Interior Department has gone too far in protecting the frogs, which spawn in ponds so shallow they dry up in the summer. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
A female Northern Bald Ibis, also referred to as Waldrapp, warms her nest while two fellows protect her at the zoo in St. Peter-Ording, Germany, on May 5, 2008. (Photo by Carsten Rehder/DPA) 
Undated photo of spoon-billed sandpiper chick. (Photo by John O'Sullivan/PA Archive)
A critically endangered small tooth sawfish roams its new home at Oceanworld in Sydney on August 18, 2011. Measuring over 1.5 metres in length, sawfish have adapted to live in both salt and fresh water, while their long saw-like rostrum (nose) has evolved to expertly forage for food under the sandy ocean floor. (Photo by Torsten Blackwood via AFP/Getty Images)

A giant soft-shell turtle which is considered a sacred symbol of Vietnamese independence is guided into a cage for a health check by handlers at Hoan Kiem lake in the heart of Hanoi. Thousands of onlookers cheered in central Hanoi on April 3, 2011 when rescuers captured for treatment the ailing and ancient giant turtle. Legend has it that the turtle is the guardian of a magical sword once used in the 15th century to drive out Chinese invaders. Concern has mounted in recent months over the health of the animal likely to be over 100 years old and one of the last of a critically endangered species -- it is one of only four Rafetus swinhoei turtles known to exist in the world. (Photo by Vietnam News Agency via AFP/Getty Images)

Madagascar Pochard

(Photo by darwin_initiative via Flickr)

The black rhino baby, that has not been named yet, stands in its enclosure in the zoo in Magdeburg, eastern Germany, Thursday April 2, 2015. The little male rhino was born on on March 25, 2015. (AP Photo/dpa,Jens Wolf)
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