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“Plenty more where they came from.” Why celebrating the death of poachers does nothing to solve the

Tusker (photo D. Rutter Arte for Elephants

Social media has been on fire this past week as wildly opposing groups from the left and the right all came together to celebrate the death of a poacher in Africa who was apparently, trampled to death by an elephant, then eaten by a lion.

If the Internet were a street, the universal glee and sense of celebration this event has caused, would constitute the most diverse block party the world has ever seen.

Oh the memes!

While I must admit that the death of this poacher by the very animals he was aiming to kill plays out like everyone’s ideal version of the karmic wheel of universal justice, I feel like someone has to stand still in the center for a moment and just say, “stop!”

I guess that person is going to be me.

As much as it sucks to be the self appointed "rain on everyone’s ding dong the witch is dead parade" I am afraid that my commitment to compassion and understanding just won’t allow me to go there.

Maybe it’s because I know too much about how the poaching crisis is fueled by global wealth inequality, lack of access to education, food and water insecurity, lack of access to birth control, sex education, over population, corruption and climate change.

Perhaps its because, in those rare instances when an African nation does manage to apprehend an ivory king pin they are usually given a light sentence, bailed out by pay offs and promises for more foreign investment.

It might also stem from my awareness of the insidious and truly global nature of the trade in endangered species parts, from the ivory markets of Viet Nam to antique dealers in San Diego, the dirty tendrils of international terrorism and their ties to drug cartels, arms deals, all the way to mindless tourists who buy ivory trinkets in Bangkok or Paris.

Photo of Ivory Trinkets in Hong Kong (courtesy Save Elephant Foundation)

Did you know that the U.S is responsible for 48% of the ivory market? *Does anyone know that there is only 1 (incredibly expensive) lab in all of the US that can positively identify the source of any given piece of ivory- to determine if it is in fact antique, mammoth, whale, hippo or elephant?

Don’t even get me started on the fact that Ivory is most certainly NOT illegal in the US nor most of the world.

But getting back to our dead and eaten poacher for a moment, while I don’t presume to know his personality, his family, if he had children or not, if he cared about animals, if he was a serial poacher or some kid that just saw easy money, but I can state with a fair degree of certainty that the people behind his decision to go out that night into the wild to die, most certainly did not get trampled, nor eaten. In all likelihood, they never even knew our dead poachers name. They will carry on in the high finance world of yachts and glad-handing government officials with little fear of any financial consequence and absolutely none-whatsoever of physical harm.

They will get their “slap on the wrist” sentences; turn their blind eyes to the true origin of their “antiques”, run multi faceted empires without so much as a whisper of shame or punishment.

And that, my friends, is a true tragedy.

Thyra Rutter is Artist & Founder of Arte for Elephants, a philanthropic art business that raises money for Elephants through the sale of artwork.

* Stats courtesy of The Kota Foundation (

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