How a viable tusk staining program might work in brief.

Here is an account of the May 6, 2013 killing of 26 elephants in the Central African Republic. [Poaching is still at unsustainable levels 2+ years later. 2014 poaching levels were the same as 2013’s. 14 July 2015.]

The crux of a workable staining program will be the dye. Does such a dye exist that can do what is required?

My hunch is that the answer will come from one or more specialists whose field(s) have no connection to elephants and poaching. My hope is that readers of this blog will know the answer or how to go about pursuing an answer or put the question to ones who do. My hope is that the answer will be found, shared, vetted and perfected. And a species-saving tusk staining program will become a reality.

The 1st post of this blog at the very bottom is a discussion of the need to destroy the value of a tusk to end poaching effectively and how that might be done.

The rest of this post is a briefer, sharper version of the “how” part with some new thoughts. If time is short, please keep reading this one.

The dye and its form of delivery must:

▪   not harm the tusk structurally or otherwise harm the elephant physically or socially;

▪   be administered orally and voluntarily (ie, no tranquilizing and knocking out the elephants. A dosage must appeal strongly enough that, if need be, it may be left in the path of an elephant herd);

▪   be able to be delivered quickly from, if need be, plane or truck; and

▪   not harm other animals who might get to the treat first. OR humans who may eat the meat of a dyed elephant.

▪   must decay harmlessly if not eaten.

The dye must:

▪   stain intrinsically from the inside out the entire tusk from pulp cavity to surface to tip;

▪   be visually discernible on the tusk to the naked human eye;

▪   be permanent, unbleachable and irreversible; and

▪   stain the tusk in one or few dosages.

Ideally, the dye should:

▪   continue to stain future tusk growth; and

▪   stain only the tusks or, at most, the tusks and other teeth.

Would all 400,000 elephants in the wild need to have their tusks stained? What percentage is both at risk of poaching and migrates through countries whose governments would be willing and able to implement a staining program?

Finding the right dye will seem like the easy part compared to implementation. The program would be monumental, complex, risky, costly and controversial but less so than our current anti-poaching efforts.

The difference is that current efforts are never ending, global solutions relying on a permanent increase in global policing and more laws (more rangers, wardens and custom agents, more treaties and bans.) Currently, legal and illegal tusks (and ivory) look the same, and, unstained, they will always be very valuable.

Whenever the anti-poaching money or pressure eases, the poaching returns. The elephants are reliant on political will and public fervor neither of which is known for marathon endurance.

Staining tusks holds out some chance of progress. Once stained the elephants are protected for three or more years. (After that time, a “dye line” of new, unstained tusk growth would appear indicating the hidden third of the elephant’s tusks are unstained and valuable again.) Some of the money and manpower protecting each and every elephant can be used to better protect elephants that stainers are unable to reach. The cost of an ongoing staining and restaining program should prove less than guarding all the elephants 24/7.

Some of the resources spent outside of Africa on policing the ivory trade might be freed up to be spent in Africa.

A staining program must also be endless, but the whole equation shifts. The focus is solely, simply the elephants.


6 thoughts on “How a viable tusk staining program might work in brief.

  1. Pingback: Proposed Tusk Modifcation Methods of Poaching Reduction | War On Blood Ivory

  2. If your idea is to stain it from the inside out by orally consuming it, why not use something like a tranquilizer gun with dye in the syringe instead. No tricking the elephant involved and entire herds can be dosed quickly and efficiently. Of course this relies on having a dye that would be able to do what you want it to do.

  3. This last post was from a while ago. Any new developments ? I’ve just seen the pic on facebook and thought what an amazing idea this is. And injecting something that will migrate to the tusk seems like the best idea, although I doubt any R&D has been done to come up with it. Anyway, still seems like a very exciting idea.

    • Nothing on staining tusks or on the poaching crisis.

      The comments I get suggest people think staining is a great, if extreme, idea, but I’ve heard of no research yet.

      Meanwhile, poaching seems to be continuing at an unsustainably high level. That is to say, in clinical terms, more elephants are dying than being born each year. I believe new borns are about 5% of the population while our poaching has driven up their mortality rate to 8%. In short, the elephant population is shrinking about 3% a year.

      Things are probably approaching a turning point. Because most of the elephants in the more lawless African countries have been killed off, poachers are turning to where most of the living elephants now are. In Botswana and South Africa where rule of law is stronger. If these two countries can keep poachers out, perhaps, the crisis will ease. . . for now.

      An Aside:
      To hear the fundraisers tell it, for years now, we’ve been killing an elephant every 15 minutes or 96 a day. Since the elephant population is indeed falling each year, this suggests we’re killing a higher percentage of the remaining elephants each year. That then indicates the decimation must be increasing. That’s not happening. It does, unfortunately, suggest the poaching crisis is permanent and insoluble, but fundraisers will be fundraisers.

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