Ele­phant skin jew­ellery: the hor­rific new fad

The Guardian - G2 - - Shortcuts - Emine Saner

The ex­tent to which hu­mans can find a use for ev­ery part of an ele­phant seems in­fi­nite. Once, it was a de­sire for ivory that was to blame for the de­struc­tion of pop­u­la­tions, but now that coun­tries have cracked down on that – in­clud­ing a ban in the UK on the sale of an­tique ivory – mar­kets for

other prod­ucts are be­ing found. The lat­est fad is for ele­phant skin, which is be­ing sold as jew­ellery and a cure for eczema.

In Myan­mar there are thought to be only 1,000-2,000 ele­phants left, down from 10,000 two decades ago. Fe­male Asian ele­phants, which were al­ways pro­tected to a de­gree be­cause they don’t have tusks, are now be­ing tar­geted.

Pre­vi­ously, ele­phants found skinned were rare,e, says Christy Wil­liams, coun­try di­rec­tor of the World Wildlife Fund’s Myan­mar ar of­fice. “Then we had a

[lot] of poach­ings in Myan­mar, where maybe 35-40 ele­phants were killed in a short space of time, largely for the skin trade. It started this year.” Traf­fic [the wildlife trade mon­i­tor­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion] puts the price of ele­phant skin at a about $120 (£90) a kilo – up from $10-$20 a kilo 10 ye years ago.

Ele­phants have even be been shot with poi­son da darts, which take days to kill them. Poach­ers track them them, then skin them. “L “Last year, we went to a plac place on the Myan­mar-china borde border and found sig­nif­i­cant quanti quan­ti­ties of ele­phant skin for sale,” says an in­ves­ti­ga­tor for the char­ity Ele­phant Fam­ily. In China, “peo­ple showed us beads made out of ele­phant skin and talked about how it was a new thing they were try­ing out. We have also been con­duct­ing re­search on on­line fo­rums. There is a lot of talk about this jew­ellery.”

Trade in ele­phant skin in it­self is not new, but the mar­ket in jew­ellery seems to be, he says. (It shouldn’t be con­fused how­ever with beads made from gem­stone and called ele­phant skin.)

“That’s the wor­ry­ing thing. When these things take off, they take off quickly.”

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