Wonder Woman faces her most mammoth adversary yet… the billion dollar ivory trade! The heroine travels to Africa to save the elephants in a 2-part story beginning in Wonder Woman ’77 #16 written by Christos Gage and Ruth Fletcher Gage with art by Dario Brizuela.
Steve Trevor explains how poachers kill elephants for their tusks to sell in the ivory trade, which was legal at the time. He informs his partner that the Inter-Agency Defense Command (IADC) has no jurisdiction…cut to Wonder Woman in Africa.
Wonder Woman is greeted by Grace Mbesi, who explains she received her position not for the sake of diversity but because the government doesn’t take the problem seriously enough to assign a man. This is further demonstrated when an official interrupts her press conference calling for an end to the ivory trade. Meanwhile, Orion the Hunter use the opportunity to poach at the opposite end of the animal preserve. It’s revealed that it was an inside job. Orion donated the land for the preserve to allow him easy access to it. Wonder Woman is outgunned by the well-armed poachers but she uses her ability to talk to animals to lead an elephant stampede into his compound. She finishes her conference without tolerating any further interruption. The immortal Amazons have witnessed the extinction of many species and Wonder Woman calls for people around the world to stop buying ivory before another is lost.
The story takes some artistic license with the facts. Wonder Woman claims that African elephant population has dropped 90 percent from 10 million in the early 20th century. The actual percentage is fairly close but the initial population is only estimated to have been at most 5 million according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The current population is less than 700,000 African elephants and 50,000 Asian elephants. The ivory trade is still going strong despite being banned in 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Wildlife Conservation Society estimates 96 elephant are killed every day. The WCS got its own superhuman spokesman to promote 96elephants.org. Arnold Schwarzenegger blows up a tusk to get rid of the demand for ivory but the valuable commodity is actually disappearing on its own.
The killing of elephants for their tusks has not only reduced their population but also the size of their tusks. Modern elephants have smaller tusks and increasingly none at all.
“Assuming that poachers select according to tusk size, they will tend to kill older males with very large tusks, thereby taking out of the population of breeding-aged males who also happen to have very big tusks. Those males then no longer pass on their genes for large tusks, ” explains Dr. Joyce Poole, an elephant ethologist and co-director of ElephantVoices.