The day may come when two of Africa's iconic species, elephants and rhinos, are available only in zoos or picture books.
Even though the ivory trade was technically banned in 1989, the appetite for ivory goods and rhino horns has continued in China and other countries.
Increasingly sophisticated poachers - some using helicopters and AK-47s to raise illicit money for various armed causes, such as Shabab, the group that murdered people in a Nairobi shopping mall - have cut a deadly swath through animal populations.
Tusks and horns are sliced from living creatures that are left to die in the blazing sun.
As unlikely as it may sound, a small Denver non-profit group is in the forefront of the battle to save Africa's national treasures - as well as the economic sustenance of many Africans who live off tourism.
Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) is a Kenya-based African-centric organization with boots on the ground promoting wildlife welfare and preservation. They are supported by a Denver branch that helps those efforts.
David Gies, a Denver resident well-known in animal welfare circles. is now based in Nairobi helping his African counterparts. Gies, the former executive director of the Animal Assistance Foundation in the Mile High City, has been blogging his observations to supporters in the United States. He recently commented on a periodic animal count:
"The results are mixed. Based on a flyover census by a joint force of Kenya and Tanzania authorities, elephants had a modest increase compared to counts in previous years. According to the government, elephant population increased 36 percent, the lowest increase recorded since the beginning of aerial census taking.
"During the same period, ending with the census of 2010, Africa’s zebras and other large mammals doubled. Buffaloes increased by 72 percent.
"According to conservationists, Africa has lost over 1,000 rhinos in the last 18 months. Kenya lost 384 elephants to poachers in 2012, compared to 278 in 2011, and 177 in 2010. These statistics are reported today in the Daily Nation, one of the major papers published in Nairobi.
"Since January of this year Kenya has lost 172 elephants and 21 rhinos to poachers.
"The census for 2013 will provide further evidence to the killing off of elephant and rhinoceros in Kenya and Tanzania.
"Interestingly, the United States has blood on its hands when it comes to the sale of ivory. According to a 2008 report, which I will detail more in another post, demand in the United States for ivory ranks among the highest. It is time to address this with awareness campaigns and legislation outlawing the sale of any ivory in our country.
"It is tragic that demand for animal tusk and horn may ruin the experience of our children to see an unfenced world with free-roaming animals of antiquity. Today we are borrowing from our children. ...
"I often wonder if the planet will someday simply dry up and look like planet Mars. It is an interesting planet to look at but I wouldn’t want to live there. We ought to do our best to keep the planet biologically diverse for the next 10,000 years."
Africa Network for Animal Welfare welcomes donations to continue its work in Kenya: www.anaw.org
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