96 Elephants

I like to thumb through FortuneMagazine when it comes to my home every week because it makes me feel smart. I can pretend to understand articles about big business and high finance. My son studies finance at Valdosta State and he is in some financial honor society. The subscription is actually his.
Imagine my surprise when I was looking at one of the August issues and I saw something I knew a lot about – a full page photo of an elephant. It was on page 45, opposite an article on whether Tech CEO’s should take their companies public. The caption under the elephant read “Take Action Now”. I recognized this as the slogan of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s 96 Elephants Campaign, but what was it doing in a magazine about finance?
The 96 Elephants campaign is based on the appalling fact that 96 elephants are killed EVERY DAY in Africa. This works out to about 35,000 animals killed every year. At that rate, it won’t be long before they are extinct. Imagine the stir it would cause if someone found the last living woolly mammoth and had it on display at their farm. What would you pay to see it in person – to be near enough to touch it? People would be lined up for blocks. Scientists would clamor for genetic material. The government would likely seize the animal as a national treasure. Is that the fate that awaits modern-day elephants?
I hope my grandchildren don’t have to ask me what it was like to see a live elephant. Seeing them in video images won’t convey their size and majesty or transmit the smell and the chest-rattling power of their subsonic communication. Elephants are endangered not due to sport hunting or because of the bush- meat trade. They are endangered because their ivory tusks are a valuable commodity on the black market – valued by some estimates at $1,500 per pound. If you consider that a pair of tusks can easily weigh more than a hundred pounds, you can see the problem. That is a lot of money.
Elephants are endangered because of money, so I guess when you think about it, Fortune Magazine is a perfect place to advertise their plight. Perhaps someone will be inspired to write an article about the economics of elephant ivory trading on the illegal commodities market. As the population of animals continues to decline, I would think the value of their ivory will increase, which seems like simple supply and demand economics. And when elephants are finally extinct and the ivory can no longer be obtained, I wonder if the value of ivory will seem trivial compared to the value of seeing a live elephant.

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