Elephants, Ivory, and Earrings
This week, GREENOLA has been focusing on tagua, the “ethical alternative to ivory.” Tagua, a South American tree that grows in the rainforest, bears a nut that is harvested once it falls to the forest floor. It is then carved into jewelry or any other product that would typically be made with animal ivory.
Our research on tagua lead us to learn about the tragic and horrifying world of elephant poaching. Each year, it is estimated that over 20,000 elephants are slaughtered for their ivory tusks. Although elephant poaching is illegal, there has been a sharp increase in demand for animal ivory over the last three years, which has encouraged poachers to continue.
Poachers typically target elephant or rhino herds from helicopters, and then open fire on the animals until they are all dead. They then rip the tusks (and sometimes also the genitals) off of the animals, and sell them to carvers and traders.
What’s is particularly frustrating about this disgusting practice is that it’s not as though there is no substitute or alternative to animal ivory. Tagua is virtually identical to ivory, but it is a sustainable, cruelty-free alternative. AND it helps save the rainforest from depletion. By preserving the rainforest eco-system and allowing tagua and other vegetation to flourish, local communities can make a living off of tagua sales, while also using the rainforest to feed themselves. Tagua fruit is edible to humans and most animals, and it’s hard, dense nut is harvested without harming the tree or depleting natural resources.
Purchasing tagua products and raising awareness about tagua is the best way to decrease the demand for ivory, force governments to enforce stronger anti-poaching policies, and save some elephants.
So to recap:
- In a year, one tagua tree can produce as much ivory as one adult elephant, but the tagua tree will continue to bear fruit for years to come.
- Sustainable tagua harvesting helps support local communities AND prevents rainforest depletion.
- Because of it grows in abundance, and does NOT involve illegal poaching, tagua products are much cheaper than ivory products.
- Basically, tagua is AWESOME. Like if Betty White showed up at your front door every day to give you free triple-chocolate ice cream sundaes that had no negative health impacts, and your car was actually a fuel-efficient Transformer, your life would still be less awesome than tagua. Not by a lot though, because your life would be pretty freakin’ epic.