National Geographic is taking an incredible stance in the efforts to stop the illegal ivory trade in Africa by planting and tracking their own faux tusks. Commissioned specially for NatGeo, the fake tusks were equipped with GPS trackers, so the publication could follow the route of the illegal tusk trade around the continent. Traveling almost 600 miles, NatGeo created a comprehensive interactive map that shows the actual route of illegal ivory, poaching hot spots, trader values and major market and exporting hubs, making the illegal industry more transparent then ever before.
Selling illegal elephant ivory is a lucrative industry, which largely funds armed and hostile groups in Africa, like the Lord’s Resistance Army. The chain starts in Central Africa, where elephants are being hunted and poached for their ivory tusks, then left to die. The ivory tusks then are smuggled throughout the continent, headed for exportation hubs that transport the ivory mainly to Asian markets, who pay high dollar for them.
NatGeo’s GPS-enhanced tusks were able to track a route that started in the southeastern Central African Republic and lead them to South Sudan, Kafia Kingi, and northern to Ed Daein, where communication with the devices was lost. The sale of illegal ivory can be extremely profitable for smugglers, who can command often ten times the price of what they paid for it. The profits can be used to fuel hostile groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, which is known for killing and abducting over 7,000 villagers in Africa.
With NatGeo’s map, authorities may further understand how to stop and apprehend illegal ivory trade along its route, hopefully helping to end the poaching.