How can you be sure that your
elephant hair bracelet hasn't come from a poached elephant?
Continual reduction of the elephant
population in both Africa and Asia show that rules to protect them
are being broken or else detrimentally adjusted - threatening their
survival even more than ever.
Poaching is rife, and the black market in ivory as well as other
elephant derived products continues to thrive. Some areas in Africa
claim that legal culling of "increasing" numbers of elephants is
necessary to reduce the numbers. But areas originally allocated
to protect the elephants are "shrinking" to accommodate the spread
of human activities, giving the false impression that elephants
are overpopulating. Ivory and other by-products are therefore being
sourced from these culls ... as well as illegal poaching.
Elephant hair bracelet and elephant hair jewellery ads are often
accompanied with reassurances based on CITES rules that elephant
hair is "traditionally" gathered from areas where the animals rub
their tails up against trees. Overall, the tradition surrounding
the creation and wearing of gathered elephant hair jewellery is
associated with love and harmony tuned to nature, and certainly
not all elephant hair suppliers should be treated suspiciously as
many may well be ethically genuine. But unfortunately, in such a
grey market involving a commonly poached species, questions must
be asked and far more evidential clarification provided before you
buy such a product.
It is extremely hard to backtrack the origins of each individual
elephant hair used to make jewellery unless you have seen for yourself
exactly where it came from, so derivatives supposedly ethically
harvested from an otherwise widely hunted animal means it becomes
a close to impossible task to determine precisely whether a crime
has or hasn't been committed.
Wildlife SOS, one of the leading rescue
groups in India also monitoring elephant poaching, tell us that
elephant hair could also come from a killed or poached elephant.
"It is really very hard to make a distinction on whether the
jewellery has been made out of hairs plucked out of a live or a
dead elephant", say Wildlife SOS.
In India, illegally caught captive elephants are estimated to number
more than 5000. These animals are subjected to terrible living and
"working" conditions. Exploited for entertainment, celebrations,
tourism and even advertising, hair from their tails used to make
fashion accessories should also be considered an unethical product.
Jewellery and other trinkets made
from the quills of porcupines can be found on the internet, and
in parts of Africa trade is booming with the sales of ethnic "fair
trade" porcupine products. Although the impression is given
that porcupine quills are easily gathered when the animal releases
them when under threat of attack, the reality is that these are
rare finds and the numbers of porcupine quills needed to fulfil
the demand for the crafts and trinket trade far exceeds that which
may have come from ethically collecting them. This concludes that
hundreds, if not thousands of porcupines are being hunted and killed
for their quills. Porcupines are considered pests to African farmers
and so exterminated. It's through this route that most quills are
harvested from the dead animals, bundled together and sold on for
profit to black market dealers, according to a report by IFAW. (see
Conclusive proof of the source of
ethically derived wild animal products (with high price tags on
their heads) is almost impossible to monitor, and as we have suggested,
the only way to ensure you have sourced an animal-friendly product
is to obtain the original ingredient yourself; obviously an impractical
exercise for most of us. So how much trust should we put in the
ads providing elephant hair or porcupine jewellery or even the raw
materials to create our own fashion statements?
At present, it cannot be officially stated that commercially available
elephant hair is also sourced from poached or even legally culled
elephants. This is because this ivory trade by-product can easily
blend, unmonitored, into the black market, and then sold on to grey
market wholesalers and subsequently to the suppliers/manufacturers.
But obviously, even poached elephants, left lying where they have
been killed for their tusks can be a source of the hair. Also, it's
worth noting that corruption and therefore deception in much of
Africa's social economy has reached epidemic proportions
So, unless you are a hundred percent sure that the source of any
animal derived product is genuinely ethical, common-sense should
prevail. If there's the slightest chance elephant hair is sourced
from poached or exploited elephants, or porcupine quill jewellery
and trinkets from a killed animal, should you buy it? Let your conscience
© 2007 - VeggieGlobal and
Unauthorized copying or distributing of this document is prohibited.
Useful Internal Links:
Good Cause Support - Wildlife SOS
Useful External Links:
SOS Elephant Project
IFAW Report on the Porcupine Quill Trade in South Africa
More things to watch out for
when wearing or eating with a clear conscience:
Things to Watch Out For ... including jewellery
- Think About Fur
Looking-Glass - Palm Oil, The Ape Killer