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China's ivory craze is killing Africa's elephants

May 10th, 2013
02:08 PM ET

By Juliet Fuisz, CNN 

Many of us believed that the ban on ivory, more than two decades ago, had ended the illegal ivory trade and saved Africa's elephants.

But instead, the magnificent creatures are again in danger of extinction because of a resurgent soaring demand for ivory half a world away in China.

Twenty-five thousand elephants were killed in 2011 – poaching levels that had not been seen in more than ten years.

The U.S. government describes a new sort of ivory organized crime that spurs on these massacres by heavily armed militias. In many parts of the African continent, murder rates now exceed population growth, meaning that the African elephant could simply disappear altogether.

In the video above Christiane Amanpour previews a National Geographic documentary called "Battle for the Elephants," in which reporter Bryan Christy investigated how Asia's booming ivory industry is keeping African poachers in business.

Filed under:  Latest Episode • Poaching
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Chris Voets

    Thank you so much for doing this story, Ms Amanpour! I live in South Africa and we are seeing animals slaughtered all over Africa, with so many of them targeted by China and other countries in the Far East.
    Please would you keep pursuing this, and also take up the cause of Africa's rhinos? People listen to you, your voice can make a huge difference!
    Thank you again.

    May 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Reply
  2. Greg Zbinden

    Good story, heartbreaking topic. I would like my young daughter to live in a world where elephants still roam. Can you pass along the contact info of some organizations dedicated to preventing these slaughters ?

    May 10, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Reply
    • Linda Goodwin

      Some organizations for you to check into:; Amboseli Trust for Elephants; David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust; Environmental Investigation Agency (an NGO); ElephantVoices. As you heard in the interview, these organizations need the governments' help in this emergency. This all needs to be highlighted frequently in news reports like Ms. Amanpour's.

      May 11, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Reply
  3. f100f1111

    Thanks you. Nice story!

    May 10, 2013 at 11:58 pm | Reply
  4. AB

    Makes me want to cry when I see pictures of slaughtered elephants. Terrible.

    May 11, 2013 at 3:48 am | Reply
  5. Julie

    Canada's Investigative jornalism show "The Fifth Estate" did an excellent undercover piece in Africa and China i 2012. Here is a link to the page which also has excellent elephant issue links

    May 11, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Reply
    • Amy Belitsos

      Thank you for sharing this Julie.

      November 20, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Reply
  6. JY Kim

    Thank you for covering this. I watched 'Battle for Elephants,' and it was just heartbreaking to see these magnificent animals being slaughtered for trinkets and even worse to see the indifference. I applaud the Chinese celebrities who are stepping up, such as Yao Ming, but we need more of them sooner. Elephants are so intelligent and empathetic – just read about how they came together to mourn the passing of the well-known conservationist, Lawrence Anthony.

    May 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Reply
  7. patrickngaini

    Its good that finally the World can see what the slaughter is doing to our wildlife. at the same time the United States is not very far behind China in the import of game trophies from Africa. Paul Allen is one good example.

    May 11, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Reply
  8. Steve Cesaroni

    Why don`t the rest of the world put a demand on chinese teeth . sorry i hate these people for what they are doing to all of the animal world. It Has TO Stop..

    May 11, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  9. Linda Goodwin

    Thank you, Ms. Amanpour for shining your light on this crucially significant story. The urgency of the elephant's plight, which is not only about elephants, but is also about ourselves as a species, cannot be minimized. Many Americans know what is taking place and why; social media are full of sites and "shares" and "tweets," but unlike even the most insignificant fact of a celebrity changing her hairstyle, our media has shown no interest in picking up the stories of the massacres and their connections to organized crime and armed terrorists. Thank you so much for being the first.

    May 11, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Reply
  10. D. DiBlasi

    Thank you Ms. Amanpour and Mr. Christy for covering this story. I've been following these terrible elephant massacres for the past few years, with another large elephant massacre only 2 days ago in the Dzanga Bai World Heritage Site in the Central African Republic. It seems that no government is willing to do what it takes to stop the massacres. CITES signed the elephants' death warrants when it allowed the "one-time" sale of ivory that has fueled demand in the Far East. Instead of fixing a horrible mistake, the CITES delegates failed to address the issue of Chinese demand at their last meeting in March 2013 (apparently no one wants to risk offending this superpower). It's hard to sustain hope in the face of losing 35,000 elelphants a year (in Tanzania, approximately 70 elephants are poached every day) – all butchered for ivory trinkets. We are witnessing the genocide of a noble species, and soon it will be too late.

    May 11, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Reply
  11. G. Sodders

    So what will happen to the Chinese Pouchers, they should just shoot these Bstard on site.

    May 12, 2013 at 12:15 am | Reply
    • Carl

      When I fly into Singapore and before we land we have to fill out an immigration form. At the bottom of the form it clearly state: "If you bring drugs into Singapore you will get the death penalty". Same should be for killing animals for their Ivory and the Rhino horns. Period.

      May 13, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Reply
      • Raewyn Scott

        I have to agree

        September 26, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
  12. JustMe2013

    People; please do something about this. Perhaps the elephants, rhinos and other charismatic larger animals of the world are not that 'important' to us but they are a warning.... we will not survive on this planet much long after they are extinct.

    May 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Reply
  13. Dorothy Rodger

    Thank her for the blog feature on Elephant Ivory
    Could you also spotlight the situation at Dzanga-Sanga UNESCO World Heritage site where Forest Elephants are being massacred, conservation staff murdered, and property destroyed. The elephant slaughter is blood money that pays for terrorist activity

    May 12, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Reply
  14. Sherry Lemon

    Thank you for drawing attention to the slaughter of elephants for ivory. This must stop now!!

    May 12, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  15. Ana Zinger

    Ms Amanpour. I was already your fan and now I am your fan x 10! Well done! The world needs to know whats happening to the elephants! Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!! Well done!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 12, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Reply
  16. Cristina Mullins

    The horror in Africa for the elephants must stop! Keep denouncing, keep helping!

    May 13, 2013 at 7:23 am | Reply
  17. Dawn Ridgway

    Ms Amanpour, i would like to thank you for doing a report interveiw on the forest elephants in central africa, iam just receiving the news that it is becoming a blood bath out there,. i had contacted cnn yesterday and i was replyed very soon after, i have just met you through the media and i think you are great because you care in what we beleive in, iam just a tad poal in the water,that is why iam asking you to please keep on it for us who care out there for these beautiful animals, thank you.

    May 14, 2013 at 3:03 am | Reply
  18. merrywriter

    The quickest way to shut this down is to go after the carvers, No carvings = nothing to buy. The most permanent way to stop it is to stop the poachers. But their greed will always trump morality. Thus it is up to the citizens of China to say No to Ivory.

    May 14, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Reply
  19. wendymaruyama

    I am severely hearing impaired and wondered if you have a transcript of this interview of Bryan Christie. I am so glad that you are raising awareness of this terrible problem. It is, indeed, heartbreaking.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:16 am | Reply
  20. Avrora Soner

    "Twenty-five thousand elephants were killed in 2011"... People, what`s going on here, I mean on the Earth?

    May 16, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  21. ColdFuZion07

    Imagine Elephants becoming extinct in the wild due to this, so sad

    watch this baby Elephant stand up, will cheer you up...

    May 25, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Reply
    • ColdFuZion07


      May 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Reply
  22. Luis Carlos Giraldo

    Ms Amanpour Thanks for disclosing this crime. What about the International Criminal Court? this is a crime against humanity. Unite to disclose this injustice elephants deserve to live, Why to buy ivory items? if when we die we take nothing, The Chinese should stop this slaughter of elephants imposing stringent laws against the use and commercialization of Ivory

    May 26, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Reply
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    June 5, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  24. Lois Olmstead

    35,000 killed in 2012; extinction likely within the decade. There will be an International March for the Elephants in approximately 20cities around the world on October 4, 2013. Please join us! E-mail us at to find city near you or to become otherwise active to fight for the survival of this cherished creature. Thank you!

    July 28, 2013 at 1:33 am | Reply
  25. Dana Dallabetta

    Thank you. Report this far and wide. Scream it from the rooftops. This MUST STOP!

    August 6, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  26. Stuart Penketh

    The Chinese believe in the efficacy of Animal parts to their health
    However there is SO MUCH misinformation about the theraputic affects of animal parts, that it will be decades, before they will take action and stop.
    If people started killing the Chinese Pandas, they would soon take note. (NIMBY)
    With regard to the Phillipino aspect of this crime, Pope Francis, should emulate his namesake's life, and order the stoppage to the making of ALL Religious objects, in Ivory.
    Pure hypocrasy from the Religious Leader,.

    September 4, 2013 at 7:13 am | Reply
  27. Raewyn Scott

    I want to add my voice to this. I am absolutely horrified at the prospect of species vanishing for people's vanity.
    I want the people of China to know that I will take them seriously when they take the natural world seriously and cease this demand, for that is what is driving it. Ivory and rhino horn trade must be banned outright, the "legal" method is not working, in fact it is having the reverse affect.

    September 26, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Reply
  28. Fred Mara

    This horrible wildlife slaughter at the hands of the Chinese (especially rhinos, tigers, and elephants) who are supporting the poachers- must stop. To me it signifies that the Chinese are not modern at all, but still slaughtering animals in medieval fashion in a world where there are not many left. I am thoroughly disgusted at this primitive behavior. Hopefully some of the Chinese people are modern and farsighted enough to turn this disgusting trend around. I think I am going to stop buying Chinese products because of the Chinese slaughter of the animals of the world. Perhaps if they are not so wealthy they can not afford to fund African and Asian animal slaughter and extinction.

    November 14, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Reply
  29. Amy Belitsos

    Thank you for covering this story. Please air it again and again.
    To know the African Elephant will become extinct in my lifetime sickens me.
    What can we do to educate the people in China and around the world who condone this – we must stop them!

    November 21, 2013 at 12:41 am | Reply
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  34. bret

    Maybe their beloved Panda should be on the poachers list. So they can watch the systematic slaughter of their own for no other purpose than a pelt. I don't know if this would stop them or even phase them. I know this sounds cruel but its the eye for an eye theory.

    February 17, 2018 at 10:06 pm | Reply
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