Saturday, February 15, 2020

trade in ivory and tusks - of elephants and woolly mammoths !!


Is Ivory trade legal should not be the Q ? – is there a real need for trading on a body part of an animal should be !.. ..  Ivory, the hard, white material derived from the tusks and teeth of animals, especially the elephant is very costly. It is used in art and manufacture.  It consists of dentine, a tissue that is similar to bone. It has been important since ancient times for making a range of items, from ivory carvings to false teeth, fans, dominoes and joint tubes. Ivory has many ornamental uses. Prior to the introduction of plastics, it was used for billiard balls, piano keys, Scottish bagpipes, buttons and a wide range of ornamental items.  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…………..
a majestic komban (tusker) at Guruvayur

Unfortunately, the value people have attached to elephant ivory has also fuelled conflict and been linked to organized crime, perpetuating a bloody trade that harms the pachyderm alike. Almost all the world’s illegal ivory comes from elephants that have been recently killed, researchers say. Sadly, African elephants have been poached and killed cruelly in getting ivory.  It is not new, Ivory has been traded for hundreds of years by people in Africa and Asia, resulting in restrictions and bans. Elephant ivory has been exported from Africa and Asia for centuries with records going back to the 14th century BCE. Throughout the colonization of Africa ivory was removed, often using slaves to carry the tusks, to be used for piano keys, billiard balls and other expressions of exotic wealth.

Thousands of years ago, an elephant-like creature called the woolly mammoth roamed Earth. Except for fossilized bones and remains found trapped in ice, it’s now gone. Mammoths and elephants are two groups of long-trunked, big-tusked and typically enormous herbivores that both enjoy a long and storied relationship with human beings. Aside from the obvious fact that mammoths are extinct, a number of physical, ecological and geographic differences distinguish these behemoths.

The woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) is an extinct species of mammoth that lived during the Pleistocene until its extinction in the early Holocene epoch. It was one of the last in a line of mammoth species, beginning with Mammuthus subplanifrons in the early Pliocene. The woolly mammoth diverged from the steppe mammoth about 400,000 years ago in East Asia. Mammoth remains had long been known in Asia before they became known to Europeans in the 17th century. The woolly mammoth was roughly the same size as modern African elephants. The woolly mammoth coexisted with early humans, who used its bones and tusks for making art, tools, and dwellings, and the species was also hunted for food. With the greed of man, changing climate, wars and environs, they slowly became  extinct !.

Dwarf woolly mammoths that lived on Siberia's Wrangel Island until about 4,000 years ago were plagued by genetic problems, carrying DNA that increased their risk of diabetes, developmental defects and low sperm count, a new study finds. These mammoths couldn't even smell flowers, the researchers reported.  Wrangel Island is a peculiarity. The vast majority of woolly mammoths died out at the end of the last ice age, about 10,500 years ago. But because of rising sea levels, a population of woolly mammoths became trapped on Wrangel Island and continued living there until their demise about 3,700 years ago. This population was so isolated and so small that it didn't have much genetic diversity, the researchers wrote in the new study. Without genetic diversity, harmful genetic mutations likely accumulated as these woolly mammoths inbred, and this "may have contributed to their extinction," the researchers wrote in the study.

Elsewhere the Miners - or tuskers as they are also known - bore into permafrost along the Yakutia river to recover the remains.  MailOnline reports that the tusks  can fetch around $34,000 for 65kg while woolly rhino horns can be worth their weight in gold.  Once extracted, the prehistoric remains are sold at markets in Hong Kong and medicine shops in Vietnam. 

Russian miners are risking their lives and making a fortune by unearthing prehistoric woolly mammoth tusks preserved in the permafrost and selling them for thousands on the Asian 'ethical ivory' market. They bore 200ft tunnels into hillsides along the Yakutia river, about 4,300 miles east of Moscow, searching for the 'white gold' which, once carved, can fetch up to $1million. The miners, who spend around five months searching for the remains in the Russian wilderness, also sell the tusks of woolly rhinos, worth more than their weight in gold, which are ground up to be sold as medicine in Vietnam. Mammoth tusks were considered for protected status by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) last year, in an attempt to limit this trade.

The remains thus unearthed  can fetch $34,000 for 65kg, reports FreeRadioEurope. They are cleaned with grass once found and wrapped in cling film before being taken to traders. Tusks pulled from the ground on the expedition fetched an estimated $100,000 for one pair, while one tusk that weighed in at 65kg was sold for $34,000.   The huge money income makes the residents clamour for this mining.  Residents head on these expeditions because a find offers a life-changing sum of money, compared to the average $500-a-month that they would receive on an average wage in the region. Despite the stories of getting rich quick, however, most miners - or tuskers as they are also known - go home with nothing.  Dr Valery Platnikov, a paleontologist familiar with tusking sites, said that 'only around 20 to 30 per cent of tuskers will find something significant enough to make a profit'.

After setting camp along the river Yakutia, in this case five hours from the nearest small town, the miners were pictured using pumps to blast the permafrost open and reveal the treasures hidden beneath. To keep the expedition cheap, they use Soviet-era Buran snowmobile engines, converted into water pumps for mining and remain at the camps throughout the season. They are also surrounded by swarms of mosquitoes as they work on warmer days and, as a result, many are seen wearing clothes more suited to keeping bees than hard labour. The bones and tusks have survived as they were entombed in the frozen permafrost, which has stopped organisms from breaking them down.

The miners also employ look outs, in case police turn up. The fine is relatively small - at $45 - but landing three of these could leave a miner facing serious charges. There are mammoth mining licences but in recent years Chinese traders have turned more and more to the black market, as legal miners have not delivered enough ivory, reports Wired. One trader that they spoke to who has a licence said that most of his mammoth remains are still stuck with customs - more than a year after he tried to export them.

Mammoths once patrolled Russia's frozen wastes from 400,000 years ago until their population declined at the end of the Pleistocene 10,000 years ago. A few hung on on outcrops of land, such as Wrangel Island, until they finally died out around 4,000 years ago, it is stated ~ but there still exists market for those body parts ! – called tusks and ivory ! – strange are the ways of mankind.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
15th Feb 2020.


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