If We Really Want to Save Elephants, We Need to Shut Down Every Ivory Market

According to a new paper published in the journal Conservation Biology that’s likely to spark controversy, if we’re really serious about saving elephants from poachers, we have to shut down all domestic and international markets for ivory and destroy every government stockpile.

With the exception of two government sales held in 1999 and 2008, the international trade in ivory has been banned since 1989. Unfortunately, demand for ivory has led to an increase in poaching and continues to threaten vulnerable populations of elephants.

It’s clear that the slaughter is decimating Africa’s elephants; according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, 96 elephants are killed every day, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates 30,000 elephants are killed in Africa every year for their tusks.

However, the debate about how to shut the trade down continues. Some continue to argue that putting ivory from stockpiles back on the market and carefully regulating the trade will help save elephants by meeting the demand and raising funds to to support conservation, but the argument that this will only help fuel demand and provide a cover for the illegal trade is much stronger.

The paper, written by Elizabeth Bennett, the Vice President for Species Conservation at WCS, argues that stockpiles offer an avenue for illegal ivory to make its way into the market, while financial incentives of breaking the law outweigh the consequences, and the fact that it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between legal and illegal ivory only compounds the problem. Additionally, she argues that the biggest problem with legalized trade is that corruption is undermining efforts to effectively regulate sales.

According to a statement, “the paper looked at the corruption index of 177 assessed countries, noting that half of the 12 countries in Africa that contain elephants are in the bottom 40 percent. Six of the eight countries identified by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as most implicated in ivory trafficking globally are in the bottom half of the most corrupt countries in the world.”

Already, some steps are being taken that this study supports. Governments, including those in the U.S., China, Belgium, France and the Philippines, have recently stood up for elephants by destroying stockpiles, while others are working on trade bans. We know Asia is a huge market, but the U.S. isn’t far behind. While a federal ivory ban is in the works, this week New Jersey became the first state to pass a law banning the trade, which bans both the import and in-state sales of ivory and rhino horn. New York is still considering similar legislation.

The paper also notes that the problems will only grow as prices for ivory increase and that while on-the-ground efforts can help stem the losses, the most effective thing that can be done is to stop making the trade profitable by killing demand.

“In the long term, the only sustainable solution is for the demand for ivory – the ultimate driver of the system – to be reduced. Until that happens, if elephants are to survive, we need to close existing legal markets,” said Bennett.

Right now, elephant and rhino advocates are planning a Global March for Elephants and Rhinos for October 4 to show their support for bans on both ivory and rhino horns to keep these species from disappearing from our world forever.

For more info on how to help, visit the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s 96 Elephants campaign.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Alicia N.
Alicia N2 years ago

signed and San Francisco is 5 hrs away from my home so , I'll be attending
Thanks for the info.

Luciana Lemons
Luciana carlozzi2 years ago

Its not as if Ivory is Food so it should ALL be illegal to obtain & sell. What it really comes down to is these people need another way of making money. They need to be taught how to grow crops or learn a trade where they can earn a decent living. If the Countries who are against it ban together & all chip in on this the poaching would reduce significantly. Maybe we could even set up a program to buy some of what they produce!

Mark Donners
Mark Donner2 years ago

Consider the nightmare of overpopulated humanity, if only 1% of the hugely bloated 7 billion human population are criminals and psychopaths that destroy environments and wildlife (and other humans) for personal criminal greed, that means there are 70 million psychopaths roaming free who are threatening and destroying the earth's future. Even if 10 million of them are in prisons that still leaves 60 million demons roaming this earth. If the figure is as much as 2% that is a doubly worse threat.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner2 years ago

South Africa has a plan to airlift up to 500 rhinos to Botswana, since South Africa's Rhinos are under a heavy poaching threat. Botswana has no porous borders like South Africa, and they have self defense forces patrolling their parks with orders to shoot to kill. Botswana's officials are not as corrupt as South Africa. There One rhino defender in Botswana admitted to killing 30 poachers. are very few poaching threats in Botswana as a result. Botswana has the right idea, use the militaries, shoot to kill and NO MERCY TO POACHERS AND SMUGGLERS is the only option.

Judy Boyko
Judy Boyko2 years ago

There shouldnt legally be any ivory markets or rino horn market or puppy mill market but the world is screwed up as or the uncivilized humans in it. If money is to be made some fool will slaughter a living animal for it. Guess laws are made to be broken. We need laws that are upheld and sentences like if you murder an animal you get the death sentence. Thats the only way to stop fur farms, but its not a fur farm its a killing farm. SO lets change the laws and make it a real crime if you committ murder on anything that breathes. Watch how dog fighting will maybe slow down.... to much murder on this planet by to many un human beings!

Loretta Pienaar
Loretta Pienaar2 years ago

All who care must stand up and fight openly and with all the power at their disposal to help elephants AND ALL the treasures of this planet.

Alicia Guevara
Alicia Guevara2 years ago

Took note and signed pledge.

Angev GERIDONI2 years ago

I would like to thank all Care2 members who already signed our petition. if no, please help give an happy end to that sad story :
Care 2

The saturday august 2nd 2014, we had a great new, Paul Watson the SEA SHEPHERD boss, while taking a break in Paris, has shown its support to the horses of Pétropolis : ♡ Paul Watson support

Thank you for caring

Teresa Garcia
Teresa GarcĂ­a2 years ago

True, it have to be done. Destroy every piece made of ivory & don´t buy it, period...