Elephant Skin

Across Asia, elephants are being hunted to extinction for their skin.

Our undercover investigations have found that the trade in elephant skins – for medicinal powders and pills for jewellery – has mushroomed since 2018. Elephants are being killed and skinned in Myanmar and skins are sold in marketplaces and on social media platforms in China. Our latest report reveals that the burgeoning industry seems to have spread from Myanmar throughout a larger swath of Southeast Asia, including not only China but also Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

“The trade is continuing and spreading geographically”

Belinda Stewart-Cox, Elephant Family

Our report noted how elephants were found in forested areas of Myanmar, mostly near water bodies, with their skins ripped apart from their bodies.

Further investigation revealed the reasons. The elephants had been killed not with fire arms because of heavy penalties on gun ownership in Myanmar. Instead, poachers used arrows and spears tipped with poison.

When hit with such missiles, the poison would spread inside the wounded animal and it would desire water. It would seek out the nearest water body and die beside it in a painful and excruciating death. Its body would in turn pollute the water supply for local residents.

Our intention is not to apportion blame but to turn the spotlight onto the escalation of this crime and to call for the collaboration of governments, civil society and the wider public to tackle the issue before it threatens the survival of Asia’s elephants.

Elephants Killed for their Skin

Elephants killed for their skin

In 2016, 421kg of elephant skin was seized in Southwest China. The haul, along with multiple sightings of elephant skin in Myanmar, confirmed a devastating trade.

Cut into pieces the skin is sold on the black market, ground down to powder and promoted as a medicinal cure or, as Elephant Family investigations discovered, turned into beads for jewellery. Asian elephants are struggling to survive, they have lost 90% of their habitat in the last century – now they are being ripped from the wild for the tourist trade and their skin.

Our new report published in September, 2019 – is as an update of our 2018 reports covering an 18-month period, during which we continued to monitor online marketplaces, visited key locations known for illegal wildlife trade, and engaged with national and international policy-makers. For clarity and perspective, we present our latest findings in the context of our previous research.

Our intention is not to apportion blame but to turn the spotlight onto the escalation of this crime and to call for the collaboration of governments, civil society and the wider public to tackle the issue before it threatens the survival of Asia’s elephants.

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