Elephants And The Ivory Trade


Elephants and ivory trade go hand in hand. The more elephants are killed the more the ivory trade business thrives and vice versa. That said there has been an increase in the number of elephants being killed every year for their ivory to satisfy the international demand of ivory. The ivory obtained is usually used to make precious items such as trinkets and jewelry and that’s why the demand for ivory has been on the rise.  In terms of stats, it is estimated that the number of elephants that were killed for ivory on a yearly basis between 2008 and 2013 ranged between 30,000 and 50,000. Killing elephants for their tusks (ivory) is really not something new. To well highlight this fact, one will have to look at the population of elephants back in the 70s and their population 10 years later. Back in 1979 when the practice was not that rife, it was estimated that there was a total of 1.3 million African elephants but fast forward a decade later that number drastically reduced to 600,000.

How Does It work

Poaching and illegal ivory trade operates just like any other business. The people involved are usually categorized based on the work that they do. For instance, there are dealers as well as the poachers. In most cases ivory dealers usually employ poachers and they make sure that they arm them with all the necessary weapons that they might need when it comes to killing an elephant. In return, the poachers go out of their way and target elephants and at times they even target an entire herd of elephants. They usually shoot them and after the elephants are dead they use chainsaws and axes to cut off their tucks. What even worse is that they don’t care whether the elephants are young or old they simply kill any elephant as long as they can be able to obtain ivory from them.

These husks, after being obtained by the dealers, are usually fed into the illegal international ivory trade. This trade has been growing over the years and it usually feeds the growing demand of ivory from regions such as Asian, USA and Europe. It’s also good to not that this demand is usually very high in Asia and that the ivory trade sector is usually controlled by well organized criminal syndicates and as such it has proven difficult to put the main people who are fueling this practice behind bars.

The Stats

Illegal trade of ivory and poaching in general has increased significantly and some conservationists have even been quoted saying that the practice has spiraled out of control and for good reason. In many countries, the rate of poaching is believed to be the worst they have been since the 1980s. Back in 2011, there were thirteen seizures and they all amounted to more than 23,000kg, the highest seizure recorded since the ivory ban was enacted.  In July 2012, CITES recognized what many in the industry had already known and that is the fact that the levels of elephant poaching were quickly becoming unsustainable not only in small populations that are unprotected but also large population which in the past were regarded as a safe zone for elephants.

As at now the level of poaching as well as trafficking ivory is at a high level that hasn’t been seen in more than 25 years. It is believed that a total of 170 tons of ivory were trafficked by criminal networks between 2009 and 2014. In terms of price, ivory’s wholesale price in China is at a remarkable high of $2,100 per kg. Back in 1989 this price was at $5 per kg. That said many conservationists believe that these prices has led to many elephants being killed for their tusks and these explains why there are around 434,000 to 684,000 elephants remaining in Africa.

Elephants And The Ivory Trade

Measures Taken Regarding Elephants & Ivory Trade

There have been measures taken by various entities and countries in ensuring that the practice of killing elephants for their ivory is eliminated if not reduced. For instance, back in 1989 CITES approved a worldwide ban on ivory trade. Following the ban there was a decline in poaching levels and as a result there was a slump of black market ivory prices. Given the reduction in poaching levels many believed that the problem, that is killing elephants for their ivory, was resolved but that wasn’t the case. One of the main reasons why poaching elephants for their husks picked up just years after it showed signs of being on the decline is the move by CITES to allow certain African countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia to sell the ivory that they had in stock. Following this particular move many people were confused as to whether or not poaching is illegal and as such the whole practice picked up very quickly. What is alarming is that the number of elephants being killed for their ivory are increasing on a yearly basis since CITES granted those three African countries permission to sell of their ivories.

Foundations & Organizations Fighting The Trade of Ivory & Poaching

So what exactly can be done to curb the killing of elephants for their ivory? Well, ensuring that the ban established back in 1989 by CITES when it comes to elephants and ivory trade is once again introduced is just one of the ways of seriously solving this problem. That said, there are various agencies that also deal with the protection of elephants for instance the Born Free Foundation. Since the early days of poaching and sale of ivory Born Free has been in the forefront of protecting elephants, in fact, they helped encourage CITES to put into effect the ban on elephant poaching and ivory trade that was implemented back in 1989.

The Born Free Foundation also tried their very best in persuading CITES not to approve the one of sale of almost 50 tons of ivory by three African countries that is Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana to Japan. Born Free believed that by doing so, CITES will be encouraging poaching of elephants and the sale of ivory and this was the case years after this wish was approved by CITES. It hasn’t been all sad news for Born Free back in 2010 they were successful in preventing a proposal to exploit a loophole in the 2007 moratorium that was presented by Zambia and Tanzania.

IFAW is also another agency that is in the forefront when it comes to elephant protection as well as taming the ivory trade. In fact, they have taken part in many ivory destructions in different countries for instance, the;

  • US
  • UK
  • Mainland China
  • Belgium
  • Hong Kong
  • France

In addition IFAW has taken up various activities in different countries so as to raise awareness when it comes to poaching and ivory trade. This they have managed to do thanks to the education that they offer consumers. They cover plenty of topics when speaking to consumers, for instance, they do touch on elephant cruelty, conservation impacts as well as the illegality of wildlife trade.

Other measures that can be taken into account so as to ensure that the killing of elephants and the trade of ivory has been completely eliminated or reduced significantly is by;

  • Closing down national and domestic markets of ivory to accompany CITES international trade ban on ivory market.
  • Consumers need to be educated so as to reduce the demand of ivory. In China, a survey conducted showed that 70% of those people who purchase ivory did not know that ivory came from dead elephants but they actually fall of from elephants just like teeth.
  • Ensuring that strong law enforcements are used in addressing criminal syndicates that are involved with the ivory trade is just one of the ways that can be used in reducing poaching and ivory trade. This should be observed on both international and national levels.

What You Can Do

There are other measures that you can also do so as to help in the protection of elephants as well as taming the ivory market. For instance, you could;

  • Sign petitions. You can sign by visiting this link
  • Help fund elephant protection. You can do this by visiting this link
  • Educate your family members regarding this issue.

Elephants and ivory have proven to be very dependent of each other. If for example the ivory trade is to be killed then chances are high that poaching activities will reduce drastically. The same also applies in an event that there are effective measures taken into account so as to protect elephants. All in all, everyone needs to contribute in the fight against ivory trade and poaching. As mentioned you can be able to contribute in a number of ways for instance you could chose to educate people regarding husks or ivory and where they come from as it has been proven that many who purchase ivory have no idea where they are from.