By ANDREW LAM, New
The tiger, for instance, that fierce and terror-inducing king of the jungle, is no longer feared so much as coveted: as a rug, as jewelry made of fangs, as a quixotic dish, or as medicinal products made from its various parts thought to improve man’s sexual prowess.
But nowhere is the irony as deep as it is in
According to a recent Associated Press article, a new taste for elephant meat has sprung up in mega-modern
Traditional poaching for male elephant tusks has evolved, with a growing taste for their meat driving hunters to begin targeting female and baby elephants as well. Not exactly a traditional Thai delicacy, the emergence of an army of nouveaux riches across
Elephant sashimi, now apparently all the rage, is part of a mindset at once boastful and shallow: if it’s the last elephant, then I will show my friends that I can afford it.
So here’s the irony: The Asian elephant is still a revered cultural icon in
Indeed, the elephant once served as both builder and war machine: carrying logs and rocks and uprooting trees to build palaces and temples, while fighting countless wars bedecked in the armor of a warrior.
Alas, sacred is quickly cast off for cold hard cash. A pair of tusks can fetch as high as $63,000. Though illegal, poaching has now reached what environmentalists are calling a “crisis point.”
At the beginning of last century there were more than 100,000 wild elephants in existence. One hundred years later the population has plummeted to less than 3,000.
Classified as an endangered species, the Asian elephant is expected to disappear from the wild altogether around 2050, if not sooner.
But while poaching is particularly abhorrent, there are other reasons behind the elephant’s disappearance, including deforestation.
For domesticated elephants in
An average elephant weighs 11,000 pounds, and consumes more than 26 gallons of water and 440 pounds of food a day. That’s why their owners consciously curb breeding among the captive beasts, bringing down their number even farther.
Many owners, left with no other choice, have now turned their elephants into urban beggars. For the wild elephant conditions are even worse.
Only about 15 percent of the country is still forestland, and those patches are widely scattered. Many wild elephants resort to raiding farms for crops, where they are often shot or poisoned by subsistence farmers. In the story of miserable beast pitted against impoverished human it’s a no brainer who comes out on top … with fork in hand.
Man has conquered everything but himself. The wild is now what we call a reserve, the wilderness nowhere but within. In a world where even the sacred is devoured, one can’t help but wonder what are the chances for other species on the endangered list.