Since the time of ancient civilizations ivory has been an object of great desire. Ornaments and carvings have been fashioned out of ivory for centuries with the earliest items dating back 20,000 years. There is even evidence of the use of hippopotamus ivory in dentures in ancient Rome.
A dense white material ivory comes from the tusks and teeth of animals such as the elephant walrus hippopotamus pig and sperm whale. Among these elephants have been hunted the most as their tusks are made up of ivory. In 2012 alone 35000 African elephants were pouched for their tusks. The elephant’s ancestor the mammoth was also prized for its giant tusks with parcels of Siberian mammoth. Ivory weighing ten to twenty tones being common in the ivory markets of the 1890’s
Consisting of dentine a tissue that is similar to bone ivory is fibrous and easy to carve. It is also a durable material if not exposed to high temperatures or humidity. Its durability and ability to survive over time makes ivory a coveted item that has driven its sales in the black market causing the death of over sixty percent of forest elephants in the last decades.
Today ivory is mostly extracted from elephants in African and Asia. The ivory extracted from elephants in West Africa has been found to be harder while ivory from East African elephants is softer. Elephas Maximus are comparatively smaller usually five feet and sixteen kg in weight. The demand for ivory both legal and on the black market is the single greatest threat to African elephants. In India even though the elephant is venerated and is seen as a symbol of friendship it is hunted for its tusks. While habitat loss and train accidents are seen as threats. In India poaching remains the major cause of death of wild elephants. WPSI recorded the loss of over 121 elephants due to poaching between 2008 and 2011. During the period the record shows 781 kg of ivory 69 tusks 99 pieces of ivory carvings and 75 ivory bangles were seized from across the country.
Over the centuries ivory has been used to make ornateartefacts intricate carvings weapons religious and personal items decorative boxes and handles. Early Romans and Greeks used ivory to make the white of the eyes of statues. The demand for ivory remained high through the Classical period for use in works of art. The Chinese have valued ivory for both utilitarian and artistic purposes for long. As early as the First century BC the Chinese move ivory along the Northern Silk route to cater to the demand that was growing in the west. Ivory soon became an expression of exotic wealth as piano keys billiard balls and smoking pipes were made out of it
As a result throughout the colonization of Africa tones of ivory were removed and slaves were used to carry the prized raw material that often weighed more than 25 kg.
Steps to be taken
A return on the complete ban on ivory is imperative as sanctioned sales of the raw material continue to put elephants at risk. The international criminal syndicate involved must be dealt with strongly with tough laws that destroy the supply demand chain for ivory.
But the immediate need of the hour is to educate friends and family on ivory. Many believe that ivory falls out naturally like teeth. People must be made aware of the poaching and barbaric extraction of ivory from dead elephants. Discourage your friends from using items made of ivory such as combs jewellery and artefacts. Tell them that such objects are not to be valued as it comes at the cost of an innocent life.
Courtesty MATHULIKA GAUTHAMA THE HINDU YOUNG WORLD