TEXTS FOR DISCUSSION
The elephant population continues to dwindle in many African countries. In others, however, longstanding conservation measures have been so successful that elephants are more numerous than at any time in recorded history.
Wildlife experts are calling this a victory, but to the struggling African farmer, it is yet one more example of how the forces of nature threaten her precarious livelihood. Elephants foraging for food that their expanding population has made scarce can destroy an entire plantation in a matter of hours. Profits on the larger farms, already under threat from rocketing seed and fertilizer prices and the effects of globalization, are plummeting. For the subsistence farmer and her family, a single act of trespass by an elephant herd can mean the loss of a season's work, the destruction of house and home, and possible destitution.
It is these facts which have led many farmers to call for a revival of the right to shoot elephants and to trade their meat, hides and ivory. The price of a single tusk can be equivalent to many years' income for an impoverished farmer. In a world where the livelihoods of poor people are more at risk than those of elephants, this is an increasingly persuasive argument. In addition to this, legalization would reduce the need for the expensive, military style policing currently used to control the violent behavior of ivory smugglers.
However, many conservationists have reacted with horror to this proposal. Legalizing the shooting of elephants, even on a controlled basis, will, they argue, lead to a free for all which will drive the elephant back to the brink of extinction. The corruption and exploitation linked to the trade in ivory will return. And to many, the very idea of killing an animal as majestic, noble and intelligent as the elephant is every bit as abhorrent as killing a whale.