About half of Africa's elephants—600,000 animals—died between 1979 and 1990. Most were slaughtered for their tusks. Though commercial trade in new African ivory was banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1989, demand continues. Some ivory is actually legal. In the U.S., for example, it's permissible to import ivory older than a hundred years as well as personal trophies brought back by individual hunters. But without proper documentation, it's hard to discern legal ivory from black market goods. "The best thing that people can do for elephants," says Luis Arranz, administrator of Chad's Zakouma National Park, "is never to buy ivory."
Learn more about helping Zakouma's elephants—and hindering the ivory trade—from these websites:
Wildlife Conservation Society
Record amounts of illegal ivory were seized in 2005. Much came from the less patrolled areas of central Africa outside Zakouma National Park. Zakouma's elephants urgently need protection when they leave the park in the wet season. The WCS funds this work in Zakouma—to pay for guards, better equipment, aerial surveillance, and collaborations with local communities also plagued by poachers.
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Elephant Campaign
IFAW is involved in various global initiatives to end the trade in elephant ivory. Currently IFAW is funding a number of efforts in Zakouma National Park: law enforcement training for park rangers; purchase of motorcycles, horses, equipment, materials, and animal feed; and health care for park staff. For further information on IFAW's work in Zakouma National Park, or for donations to IFAW, see www.ifaw.org/us/chad.