AP Literature MISO (Media, Interview, Survey, Observation) Venture

The Battle Against White Gold

by Alice C., David H. Mady C., Hayley H.



A decade ago, half a million elephants roamed the African continent.

Rampant elephant poaching in the 1980s had granted elephants a spot in CITES’ Appendix I category, a section reserved for only the world’s most endangered species. Subsequently, the international ivory trade was banned; elephant populations began to recover slowly.

But now, those numbers are dropping once again. Drastically.

Only half of the population remains today. The main reason behind this exponential decrease is the increase in ivory demand, especially in China.

The high demand in China is partially caused by a lack of education about ivory. A common myth related to elephant ivory poaching is that the elephant itself is not harmed in the process since the ivory is simply cut off, and will eventually grow back.

However, this belief is horrifyingly erroneous.

The process of removing the tusks is gruesomely inhumane. Since the bottom third of each elephant tusk is deeply embedded within the skull of the elephant, it must be cut out from the elephant’s head to be removed. The cavity where the tusk connects to the skull contains essential nerves, tissue, and blood vessels. Poachers initially use darts, poison, and automatic rifles to take down an elephant. While the elephant is dying, the tusks are gouged from the living elephant’s skull, forcing them to die an agonizing, slow death from hemorrhage.




AP Literature students lead Grade 9 Humanities students through a simulation about the poaching of elephants. 

Four students in AP English Literature and Composition (David H., Mady C., Hayley H., and Alice C.) decided to explore this problem of ivory poaching and its relations to China. The students were inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, a novel that depicts the brutal realities of the Democratic Republic of Congo during Western colonization. The exploitation of the African continent by developed countries is still prevalent, however, in the 21st century.

To respond to this issue, the students decided to teach a Grade 9 Humanities class about the ivory poaching crisis. Despite legislation that has curbed ivory imports into China, this country remains the driving force behind the illegal ivory trade, and Shanghai is one of the main ports of entry. Being oblivious to this problem may make the Concordia students guilty of ignorance. Instead of choosing to dismiss this atrocity, which in turn provokes poachers to continue their actions, the four students were determined to at least educate their own community at school.

The students began their lesson by showing the Humanities students a documentary they had made relating to the history and background of ivory poaching. Afterward, a brief simulation was carried out in the form of a tag game, where some students were poachers and others were elephants. Variations of the game, accomplished by placing restrictions on poachers, helped demonstrate how different solutions could benefit elephant populations. Natasha, a freshman in the class, said, “the simulation helped us to experience the events and see the differences between the situations when there were effective solutions versus when nothing was being done.”

The Humanities students were impacted by the lesson. Oliver, one of the students in the class, commented that he only knew that “people and elephants were victims of the trade, but not about the involvement of China.” He realized there aren’t a lot of punishments for the people who are involved in poaching and illegal trading. Hence, he saw the need to amend current policies to further restrict illegal poaching.

“I was nearly clueless as to what effects it [the ivory trade] had and how harmful it is to elephant populations as well as their ecosystems,” Natasha remarked. Afterward, Natasha stated: “I walked away with a sense of concern for this issue and so much more knowledge about it.” Specifically, she mentioned, “I didn’t realize that  a lot of the poachers actually don’t want to be harming these elephants, but because they have no other choice to make a living, they are forced to harm the elephants.”

The number of elephants on our planet is dropping. Dramatically.

But this can be stopped.

To put the matter of ivory poaching into his own hands, Oliver advocates raising awareness of the dangers of the ivory trade. “I want to raise awareness with people like my grandparents who might not be educated about it,” Oliver says.  

“Since Africa is so far away, I think the closest we can get is raising awareness for the problem,” adds Natasha. “As people living in Shanghai, we are placed in a prime location where we can tell others about the negative impacts on ivory trade because it is a part of Chinese culture.”

Choosing to dismiss this atrocity provokes poachers to continue their actions. To stop this massacre, communities have to be educated. Together, an poaching-free world is achievable.


If you want to learn more watch: https://youtu.be/GE3xle0ZBfU

Sources for the video documentary made by this group:

“Adrenaline - Intense Suspense Music.” Adrenaline - Intense Suspense Music, Youtube, 4 Mar. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5y4m5VgBWw.

“African Elephants under 'Imminent Risk' of Extinction - CITES.” YouTube, YouTube, 30 Nov. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4EYRhztm3c.

“Cameroon Elephant Slaughter | WWF.” YouTube, YouTube, 9 Aug. 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGznqCl3LVk.

“Chinese President ‪‎Xi Jinping Addresses UK's Parliament.” YouTube, YouTube, 20 Oct. 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn_oKxd9zl8.

“Elephant Poachers in Kenya.” YouTube, YouTube, 1 Oct. 2013,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygHH40MAL7w.

“Panorama - Ivory Wars: Out of Africa (12 Apr 2012) [BBC].” YouTube, YouTube, 6 Aug. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GauR55wQwI.

“Queen Elephant.” YouTube, YouTube, 21 Nov. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JwSdFbcem4.




Hayley, Mady, David and Alice are senior students taking AP Literature & Composition at Concordia International School Shanghai.