NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC - Blood Ivory
Ivory Worship - FREE Feature Download
Thousands of elephants die each year so that their tusks can be carved into religious objects. Can the slaughter be stopped?
In January 2012 a hundred raiders in horseback charged out of Chad into Cameroon's Bouba Ndjidah National Park, slaughtering hundreds of elephants — entire families — in one of the worst concentrated killings since a global ivory trade ban was adopted in 1989. Carrying AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, they dispatched the elephants with a military precision reminiscent of a 2006 butchering outside Chad’s Zakouma National Park. And then some stopped to pray to Allah. Seen from the ground, each of the bloated elephant carcasses is a monument to human greed.
Elephant poaching levels are currently at their worst in a decade, and seizures of illegal ivory are at their highest level in years. From the air too the scattered bodies present a senseless crime scene — you can see which animals fled, which mothers tried to protect their young, how one terrified herd of 50 went down together, the latest of the tens of thousands of elephants killed across Africa each year. Seen from higher still, from the vantage of history, this killing field is not new at all. It is timeless, and it is now.
The Philippines Connection
In an overfilled church Monsignor Cristobal Garcia, one of the best known ivory collectors in the Philippines, leads an unusual rite honoring the nation’s most important religious icon, the Santo Niño de Cebu (Holy Child of Cebu). The ceremony, which he conducts annually on Cebu, is called the Hubo, from a Cebuano word meaning “to undress.” Several altar boys work together to disrobe a small wooden statue of Christ dressed as a king, a replica of an icon devotees believe Ferdinand Magellan brought to the island in 1521. They remove its small crown, red cape, and tiny boots, and strip off its surprisingly layered underwear. Then the monsignor takes the icon, while altar boys conceal it with a little white towel, and dunks it in several barrels of water, creating his church’s holy water for the year, to be sold outside.
National Geographic is un-missable reading for anyone who takes an interest in the world around them. Our special features come to life with unrivalled, compelling journalism and superb photography. Imagery and unsurpassed maps make our features accessible to everyone.
All of this will be yours when you subscribe to National Geographic magazine. You will benefit from this wealth of knowledge every month – and as a special bonus National Geographic are offering instant access to the feature above when you place your order.
Investigative reporter Bryan Christy’s January 2010 story,“The Kingpin,” exposed wildlife trafficker Anson Wong. Documentary photographer Brent Stirton’s March 2012 “Rhino Wars” won a World Press award.
All materials Copyright © 2012 National Geographic Society
All rights reserved. National Geographic and Yellow Border: Registered Trademarks ® Marcas Registradas.