In the 1980s, the world was sickened by the plague of poachers destroying Africa's elephants. At the time, 70,000 elephants were being killed every year, and the anger over these deaths lead directly to 1989's international ban on ivory trade.
That ban was supposed to save the African elephant. But today, elephant populations have dropped from nearly 1 million to just 470,000 -- and more elephants are being slain every year than before the ban was enacted.
In fact, according to a paper coming up in this month's issue of Conservation Biology, about 8% of African elephants are now being poached ever year. That puts the elephant on an unsustainable path, and scientists warn that the elephant could risk extinction by 2020 if things do not change.
So why isn't the world as angry about this as it was in 1989? According to the authors, people just aren't hearing enough about the situation. I guess the media is too busy telling us about Brangelina's babies to care about what's happening in Africa and Asia.
So spread the word. And get angry. Let's see if we can drum up enough interest to finally save the African elephant from greed-inspired extinction.
Story by John Platt. This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in August 2008.