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Monday, April 3, 2017

never knew that Tagua seeds and frozen Siberian tundra are alternates to elephant ivory !!

Elephants are very attractive – more so in the wild than in captivity ..sadly its population is plummeting in recent years. Organisations are crying hoarse that Africa is currently experiencing the highest rate of elephant mortality in history, driven largely by a multibillion-dollar illicit ivory trade. Experts have warned that African elephants could become extinct within 10 years. Several hundred are killed every week by well-armed poachers seeking ivory, meat and body parts. Ivory, the hard, white material derived from the tusks and teeth of animals, especially the mammoth elephant is very costly. Whether it is costly or useful ~ it looks good on an elephant and is its body part, not an ornamental piece meant for your display…………..

Unchecked consumption is the elephant in the boardroom – read on a newspaper.  It elaborates that Companies that want to survive in the era of climate change cannot base their growth on endless consumption. They will need to rethink their business models and adapt to a resource-strained world, say WRI researchers.Many businesses measure growth by selling more stuff to more people, and consumer markets are expected to expand in the decades ahead. The world is on pace to exceed 9.5 billion people by 2050, with far fewer living in poverty than today.Thanks to the rapid industrialisation of developing countries like China, Brazil and India, 3 billion people are projected to join the global middle class in the next 15 years alone. These demographic shifts represent both a human development victory and an enormous business opportunity for those companies positioning to meet the needs of added consumers.But there’s a catch: Current consumption patterns, even assuming efficiency improvements, put the global economy on an impossible trajectory. We would use three times as many natural resources by 2050 compared to what we used in 2000—and what we are using today has already exceeded planetary boundaries.

Other than the title there may not be any direct relevance to the huge pachyderms; yet– the consumption of ivory has a direct bearing on its living, on its dwindling numbers – and why is man so much after ivory ?greedy killing !Numbers of elephants in the wild are still falling; it's estimated 100 of them are killed by poachers every day for their tusks to meet the continuing demand for ivory. There are now only around 415,000 African elephants across the continent, down from as many as five million a century ago, according to global campaign group WWF.  While the worldwide sale of new ivory was outlawed in 1989, the animals are still being slaughtered to fuel an illegal trade led by continuing demand in China. So what exactly is MrHeerma van Voss, a 48-year-old Dutchman, doing to help protect the African elephant? He sells seeds.

Phytelephas is a genus containing six known species of palms (family Arecaceae), occurring from southern Panama along the Andes to Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, northwestern Brazil, and Peru. They are commonly known as ivory palms, ivory-nut palms or tagua palms; the scientific name Phytelephas means "plant elephant". This and the first two of the common names refer to the very hard white endosperm of their seeds (tagua nuts or jarina seeds), which resembles elephant ivory.

Here is something interesting read in BBC :OnnoHeerma van Voss had never heard of tagua before he moved to Ecuador.  Yes, you read that correctly, but these aren't any old seeds, they are instead rather special ones from South America called tagua.They are the off-white coloured seeds of six species of palm trees. They can reach up to 9cm (3.5 inches) in length and when dried become very hard indeed. So hard in fact that they are also known as "vegetable ivory".The material is called corozo or corosso when used in buttons.And like ivory, tagua can be polished and carved, and turned into ornate carvings or jewellery. From his base in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, Mr Heerma van Voss's company NayaNayon has been exporting tagua for 16 years, and he says that sales are booming.

Tagua has a very similar feel to ivory, but is a fraction of the price.  He now sells to 70 countries, including China, Japan and Singapore, as tagua grows in popularity as an alternative to ivory.And with China pledging to end its domestic trade in elephant tusks by the end of this year, Mr van Voss is hopeful that demand is going to jump even further.Using tagua as a substitute for ivory is nothing new. Indeed exports to Europe began in the 19th Century in order to meet the demand for an ivory-like raw material. This was used to produce ornamental items such as buttons, chess pieces, and decorative handles for canes.The white flesh of the tagua seed becomes exceptionally hard once it dried.  However, tagua fell into obscurity, so much so that MrHeerma van Voss had never heard of it when he first visited Ecuador in 2000.Very much liking the country he decided to stay and set up a business, launching NayaNayon to make and export wooden furniture. Then a year later he had a phone call."In the beginning of 2001, a France-based British lady contacted me if I could supply hand carved tagua figurines," he says.

"Anyhow, you listen to clients to make a company work. So I did it, and I started to like the tagua and slowly it took off."I always joke that I am a forced ecologist, but I actually really like this product."MrHeerma van Voss now sells $200,000 (£160,000) worth of tagua per year that he buys from farmers. He and his four members of staff dry and slice the seeds ready to be turned into jewellery, with France being his largest market.The sliced tagua typically retails for $30 a kg, while the raw seeds sell for $6 a kg. By contrast, a kilogramme of ivory is worth as much as $1,100 in China.While MrHeerma van Voss is preparing for a big upturn in exports to China, tagua does face two hurdles in the country.Firstly, even the longest tagua seeds are much shorter than the average elephant tusk, which limits the size of the ornaments that can be made from the material. And secondly, it lacks ivory's exclusivity.

Hongxiang Huang, a Chinese journalist and anti-ivory campaigner, explains: "As people become wealthier they want to buy luxury items, and ivory is one of the many things that people desire. This is the situation in China."For buyers wanting an alternative to elephant ivory that still comes from a mammal but is ethically sourced, the answer comes from under the frozen Siberian tundra in the north east of Russia.It may sound bizarre, but the tusks from woolly mammoths that died tens of thousands of years ago are mined on a regular basis. While official figures are not available, an estimated 60 tonnes of mammoth ivory is harvested each year. Mammoth ivory sold for an average $350 a kg in 2014, according to the charity Save the Elephants. This is about a third of the price of elephant ivory, but giant mammoth tusks in good condition can fetch far more. Here is another catch too … John Frederick Walker, an expert on ivory, says: "Master carvers tend to prefer elephant ivory because fresh elephant ivory is easier to carve.

Yet with tagua far easier to get hold of than mammoth ivory, and considerably cheaper, it is the South American seeds that is increasingly being used by jewellers, and not the Siberian tusks.While Nodova's largest markets are France and the UK, it sells to stores across Asia and MsAndron says that the forthcoming blanket ban on ivory sales in China offers a huge opportunity."I think tagua has helped diminish the demand for animal ivory, and I honestly don't think someone today can be ignorant about the slaughter of elephants with all the media coverage," she says.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

24th Mar 2017 

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