What's Worth More: A Live Elephant Or His Tusks?

<p>David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust</p>
<p>David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust</p>

A new report reveals a startling fact that poachers should take to heart: elephants are worth way more alive than they are dead - 76 times more, in fact.

The report, titled "Dead or Alive: valuing an elephant," was created by iworry, an anti-poaching campaign run by conservationists at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Calculations found that an elephant contributes $1,607,624.83 to travel companies, airlines and local economies, thanks to tourists who will pay for a glimpse of one. Meanwhile, an elephant killed for his ivory is worth about $21,000 - money that often funds criminal groups, corrupt officials and even terrorist groups.

(David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)

"Protecting Africa's elephants makes monetary sense and in the long term elephants are worth more alive roaming the world's savannah and forests than their tusks are sitting on a mantle," said Rob Brandford, iworry campaign director. "That's a powerful argument to convince policy makers."

There are some 300,000 elephants living in Africa today, a number that has fallen dramatically in recent years due to poaching. Markets in China and Hong Kong make up a large part of the demand for ivory ornaments and trinkets - though U.S. cities like New York and San Francisco contribute as well.

While poachers seek their ivory for the international trade, safari guides and sanctuaries reap the benefits of living elephants. Bradford said that governments in countries where elephants live should emphasize responsible elephant tourism.

"In order to secure the long term future of the species, it is vital Governments understand the tangible benefits elephants can bring," he said. "Given the overlap of ivory poaching locations and elephant tourism operations, every elephant killed makes these regions much less profitable." While it's helpful for policymakers to understand the economic benefit that elephants bring to an area, the ultimate hope is that elephants will one day gain the protection and freedom from intrusion they deserve as a fellow species. Besides their astounding cognitive and emotional capabilities, elephants are crucial environmental players - a service that is priceless in their ecosystems. This video explains:

click to play video