Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

13 August 2014

Africa: World Elephant Day - a Chance to Renew Efforts to Save Africa's Great Grey Beasts

analysis

12 August is World Elephant Day. In Cape Town this year, conservationists gathered to mark the day by paying tribute to the Kenyan government's burning of 12 tons of seized elephant tusks in 1989, a move which garnered attention worldwide and led to an international ivory trade ban. The "tusks" burnt by Cape Town conservationists were fake - but the message was very real.

It's a beautiful afternoon in the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve, where the heat is rising. At the centre of the action is a pyre piled with what looks from a distance like an impressive collection of elephant tusks. Flames are leaping, but there's a small group of firefighters on hand to make sure things don't get out of control. Two children are watching the fire with fascination. Their T-shirts bear slogans which serve as a reminder of the purpose of the event: "No elephants when I grow up?"

The tusks are made of papier maché, but a few onlookers fling artefacts made of real ivory into the fire, too - a handful of bangles, a small sculpture of a woman's head.

"Work in ivory can sometimes be exquisitely beautiful," muses ecologist Ian McCallum, cradling...

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