Elephants in Myanmar Are Being Poached at an Alarming Rate But It's Not for Their Tusks

World Wildlife Fund.

The 1,200 or so wild elephants remaining in Myanmar, on the border of China, are in danger. They are being ruthlessly poached, but not for their ivory tusks. Many of these elusive elephants don’t even have tusks. Instead, they are being hunted and killed for their skin.

The extent of the problem was starkly revealed earlier this year when 25 dead elephants were found in the Ayeyawady delta in southwestern Myanmar. Prior to this incident, experts believe that the killing of elephants for their skin was rare.


The poachers who killed the 25 elephants appear to have been surprised, leaving behind the skins. “They hung off the skin like laundry. Some bags were confiscated with raw hides still rolled up on pieces of wood and severed elephant trunks,” said Aung Myo Chit, the Smithsonian Institution’s Myanmar county coordinator. The elephants appeared to have been killed with poison darts, causing the elephants to die a slow and painful death.

Nilanga Jayasinghe, a senior program officer for Asian species with the World Wildlife Fund, called the elephant massacre “an alarm call,” signaling a growing trend in poaching skins in Myanmar and neighboring nations. At least six other elephants were found skinned in nearby regions. “This could spread very quickly,” warned Jayasinghe.

Klaus Reisinger, a filmmaker who works with Chit, believes the true number of elephants slaughtered to be much higher. “Whenever one dead elephant is reported, it means there are three more. The scale is unprecedented—I’ve never seen anything like it. We filmed a herd of 50 in the Ayeyawady region. Now they’re gone.”

Jayasinghe warns that if the elephant skin trade spreads, the results will be “devastating”—in particular because, unlike with ivory poachers, the female elephants will also be targets. (Only male elephants have tusks.) The polygamous elephants can survive with fewer males as long as the females are left alone. But if the females become targets, “that’s the surest way to drive a species to extinction very rapidly,” said Peter Leimgruber, a Smithsonian biologist.

The use of elephant skin for medicine in tribal areas is not new. It has been used in traditional medicines for eczema and various stomach ailments for some time. However, the use of skins for jewelry is. Traders cut small blocks of dried skin, run them through bead-cutting machines, and polish them. When polished, they look like a red amber.

The redder the beads, the more desirable. Even poor-quality bead necklaces are selling for more than $100.  Raw elephant skin is selling for $29 a pound—up ten-fold from a decade ago. All told, the skin of one elephant can fetch about $30,000.

“That’s the worrying thing,” said Christy Williams, country director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Myanmar office. “When these things take off, they take off quickly.”

C-SPAN

Late last year, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on two articles:

  • Abuse of Power
  • Obstruction of Congress

Trump's allies have railed against both articles, but the obstruction of Congress charge has come under particular focus.

During its initial investigation, the House committees overseeing impeachment requested documents and witnesses from the White House, the State Department, and the Office of Management and Budget that would help get to the bottom of just what the deal was with Ukraine's foreign policy.

When they denied the House's request, the House subpoenaed the departments for the evidence. Claiming executive privilege, their subpoenas went ignored.

Keep reading...
CNN // David Corio/Redferns via Getty Images

House Impeachment Managers and President Donald Trump's defense team debated the rules for the ongoing impeachment trial in the Senate. The proceedings lasted for 13 hours and went on until around 2 o'clock in the morning.

Hours into the debate, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) responded to a rhetorical question from Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, who had asked "Why are we here?"

It led to a mic drop moment for Jeffries.

Keep reading...
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

This past December, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing where it heard from constitutional scholars and legal experts as to whether President Donald Trump's pressure on Ukraine to open politically beneficial investigations warranted impeachment.

House Democrats brought forth three witnesses who argued in favor of impeachment, and House Republicans brought one: George Washington University's public interest law chair, Jonathan Turley.

Keep reading...
PBS News Hour/YouTube

The White House Counsel is a staff appointee of the President and Vice President of the United States. Their role is to advise the President on all legal issues concerning the President and their administration.

Pat Cipollone has served as the current White House Counsel for President Donald Trump since December 2018.

Keep reading...
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

In the current political landscape of the United States, you'd be hard-pressed to find any issue that Americans on which both sides of the ideological spectrum agree.

But it turns out that even on an issue as divisive as the impeachment of President Donald Trump, Republicans and Democrats agree on something.

Keep reading...
ABC News

President Donald Trump's impeachment trial began in earnest in the Senate on Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly after House impeachment manager, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), laid out the evidence against the President unveiled by House Democrats, one of Trump's defense attorneys—Jay Sekulow—asked a question in his rebuttal.

Keep reading...