Have you ever wondered how animals communicate? Some animals have incredibly complex behaviour, and in many cases communication is a vital part of that behaviour. I have recently been researching communication in Coleoids and I wanted to demonstrate to you all how complex, and beautiful in its complexity this communication is.
It is not often that I present only one side of an argument. I like to give both sides of the debate, or at least not only represent my own opinion – in practice for my future career (fingers crossed!). In a lot of my posts, I look at why circumstances are as they are, and try and see the bigger picture. That said there are times when I feel exceptions can be made and here is one of those exceptions:
A couple of weeks ago I came across an article that literally disgusted me. I thought animal cruelty only happened because of a minority of individuals who didn’t care or were more concerned with self-interests. I had faith that the vast majority of humanity would be as outraged with animal cruelty as me. That was until I read this article, describing the new fashion craze to hit Beijing: Live animal key rings.
I was outraged to read that the younger generation are being sold turtle hatchlings, a newt or two small fish. These helpless animals are sold in a sealed plastic bag, with a brightly coloured liquid and enough oxygen to survive a couple of days at the most. Worse still, because these animals are not endangered there is no legislation to protect them from abuse, cruelty or being shaken in a plastic bag until they die of shock or complete deprivation of oxygen.
The RSPCA are working with the Chinese government to draft legislation but you have to wonder how effective it will be. In a country where it has always been ok to mistreat animals, will people change their opinions? Furthermore with future generations learning the bad habits of their elders, with ridiculous fashion accessories, can the mind-set of China change? Adding to this problem we shouldn’t forget despite this being a truly awful case, it is by no means the worst thing going on in China. So is it even a priority? And how do you enforce something so few people seem to care about? There are certainly many issues that face China, I just worry that asking for an almost complete transformation of culture and beliefs is really going to happen. Is it just too much to ask for?
Those of you who regularly read my blog will be aware I have more than a soft spot for Elephants. I’ve never had a favourite animal but I think the Elephant is fast becoming a contender. Like so many animals, Elephants have never had it easy and it seems things won’t get better any time soon.
A study published this year called The Ivory Dynasty, discusses the soaring demand for elephant and mammoth ivory in southern China. The results of the study are shocking. A 50% increase in the number of ivory items in Guangzhou (the largest city in southern China), is suspected to be a result of a wealthy Chinese population. In 2009 factory sales were low due to the recession, but have steadily improved in 2010 with an increase in Chinese buyers demanding luxury items. All ivory sold in China must carry an ID card, proving that it has been imported legally. Of all the Elephant ivory counted in Guangzhou and Fuzhou (a city famous for carving) 63% did not have ID cards and are therefore illegal pieces of ivory.
The only legal elephant ivory to enter China since 1990 was 62 tonnes of confiscated tusks, and tusks from elephants that had died naturally. This ivory came from southern Africa in 2009. Some experts believe this one-off shipment has fuelled demand for Elephant ivory. Mammoth ivory is imported legally from Siberia, to Hong Kong (to avoid import tax) and then on to China. The ivory then goes to various factories, usually in either Guangzhou or Fuzhou to be carved. Some experts have speculated that the increase in mammoth ivory objects may have taken away some of the demand for Elephant ivory. However, both types of ivory are in increasing demand with the rising wealth and population of China.
The Ivory Dynasty goes on to call for stronger enforcement of the laws already in place. The authors of the study recommend regular inspections of the small stalls and shops in market areas, as well as the shops registered to sell ivory. The authors also ask for mammoth ivory to have a similar ID card system, to stop elephant ivory being sold as mammoth ivory.
The final sentence of The Ivory Dynasty is “If Chinese officials and traders can tighten their controls and law enforcement; they can reduce the illegal ivory trade in China”. However, the chief enforcement officer of CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) criticises The Ivory Dynasty’s recommendations stating that it is anti-poaching measures that will save Elephants. I am not sure I agree with either of these statements. The fact of the matter is that if the demand is there (I.e. people want ivory) there will always be someone prepared to supply it – whatever the cost. I believe it is the demand that must be stopped before there is any chance of stopping the trade. Saying that, it is easier said than done and as ivory becomes more and more difficult to supply, so the demand (or desirability) increases. Unfortunately for the Elephant, it is hard to see an end to this trade.
The Ivory Dynasty – http://www.elephantfamily.org/uploads/copy/EF_Ivory_Report_2011_web.pdf