Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sharks and Elephants

What do sharks and elephants have in common?

Sharks are killed in the millions in nearly every ocean and now we learn African elephants in the thousands.  For what?  Shark fins go to make shark fin soup, a thin broth posing as a status symbol, and elephant tusks are made into pricey ivory trinkets.

To paraphrase a Princeton biologist in a New York Times article:  "Do you want your kids to grow up in a world without sharks and elephants?"  

There's also some of the last white rhinos killed for their horns.  The horns, made of the same stuff as hair and fingernails, go to make traditional medicines -- meaning over 400 years ago a medicine man said ground up rhino horns can cure people's ills.  One modern scientist looked into this and concluded that people would be just as well off biting their fingernails.

On the East Coast US, horse shoe crabs are steadily being over harvested because they make good whelk bait, and people pay up to eat whelk

So what do sharks and elephants and these other natural gems have in common?  China -- a major market, and sometimes the market, for all of these products plundered from nature.

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