In 1980, roughly 1.2 million African elephants roamed the Earth. Last year, that number fell to a grim 420,000, largely due to poachers who ruthlessly mow down these majestic creatures for their tusks. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the ivory trade causes the deaths of approximately 35,000 African elephants every year. That's 96 elephants killed every single day.
To highlight just how horrific this mass murder is, the WCS has shared a haunting new video that challenges viewers to listen to the death cries of an elephant as it is chased and shot down by a poacher.
The video, part of the conservation group's anti-poaching "96 Elephants" campaign, asks the compelling question: How long can you bear to listen to this intelligent, emotive animal's expressions of pain?
"Few of today's poachers hunt elephants for subsistence," writes the WSC. "Most are commercially driven, heavily armed criminals. In fact, illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest transnational crime. Ivory -- sometimes called 'the white gold of jihad' -- helps fund the military operations of notorious terrorist groups. Smuggling gangs move tons of tusks to markets thousands of miles away."
Poachers, the WSC adds, utilize sophisticated technology, including helicopters, GPS equipment, night-vision goggles and automatic weapons to track and attack elephants. They then "hack their tusks out with an axe," the group writes, "an atrocity often committed while the animal is still alive."
Activist Jackie Cittone Magid wrote in a recent blog post for the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust that elephants simply "don't stand a chance" against the brutality that they are confronted with every day.
"Greed and indifference has made us care more for material than living things," she wrote. "Today, an elephant is worth more dead than alive. What will we say to our children or grandchildren when there are no elephants left -- that we killed them so that we can own beautiful things?"
"These magnificent animals deserve better than this," she added. "They don’t have to have this ending. They deserve to be left in peace."