Elephant skin jewellery: the horrific new fad
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.”