The illegal ivory trade is being carried out mostly by large crime syndicates, Wasser believes, and is being driven by growing markets in China and Japan, where ivory is in demand for carvings and signature stamps called hankos.
In addition, in the last few years demand has risen sharply in the United States, where much of the ivory is used to make knife handles and gun grips. In fact, a May report from the Care for the Wild International, a not-for-profit British natural protection organization, ranks the U.S. second behind China as a marketplace for illegal ivory.
There is something about an extinction of elephants that seems like a watershed event. Yes, I know we are in an age of anthropogenic extinction, and species are dying out every day. But elephants...that seems a little different somehow. They're not like some shy vole or uncommon butterfly. They're elephants. We love seeing them. They're beautiful and fascinating and obviously social and smart, and yet we can't even seem to find it among ourselves to halt and reverse their extinction. And if we can't do it for elephants, what would we possibly do it for?