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Time is running out for elephants

Hourglass display 22 June 2005 to 25 May 2006

Elephants in South Africa

Elephants in South Africa. All images © IFAW

Merseyside Maritime Museum and IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, held this special display to highlight the effect of the illegal trade in ivory on the survival of the world's elephants.

The centrepiece of the display was a large hourglass filled with crushed ivory, a symbolic reminder that time is running out for elephants.

A new threat

Although the ivory trade has been banned since 1989, a decision may soon be made by CITES, the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, to allow the sale of 60 tonnes of stockpiled ivory.

IFAW believes that this could spell disaster for elephants across Africa and Asia, as any legal trade provides a smokescreen for poachers to launder illegal ivory. It is extremely hard to distinguish between illegal and legal ivory once it has been cut up for sale. This encourages poachers to kill more elephants.

Combined with the many other threats elephants face, such as habitat loss and competition with humans over scarce resources, increased poaching could spell extinction for some populations. Down from 1.3million in 1979, today there could be as few as 400,000 African elephants left in the wild. Asian elephants are even more vulnerable, as numbers have dropped to between 35,000 and 50,000 - there are only 200 elephants left in the whole of China.

IFAW's hourglass campaign

IFAW has been campaigning to make sure the ivory sales do not take place, or that at the very least they do so under the strictest conditions possible.

In 2004 they called on the public to give up their unwanted ivory in a UK wide amnesty to help protect the world's remaining elephants. This ivory has been ground down and placed in the hourglass as a powerful memorial to those elephants gunned down to supply the trade. It also represents the need for the long-term conservation of elephants that are still alive before their time also runs out.

Further information about protecting endangered species

Why not find out more about IFAW's Ivory Trade Campaign activities or read about how Customs officers work to protect endangered species.