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February 27, 2007

Ivory Poaching

When will people bloody well learn!

Up to 5 per cent of Africa’s elephants are being slaughtered for their ivory each year, according to research which suggests that poaching threatens the animals with extinction despite a global ban on the sale of ivory.

More than 23 tonnes of illegal ivory were seized between August 2005 and last August, most of it from recently killed elephants. Scientists believe that the true weight of smuggled tusks is ten times greater.

This would mean that about 234 tonnes of ivory were exported from Africa that year and about 23,000 elephants were killed. Continued poaching on this scale would drive the species rapidly to extinction.

Samuel Wasser, of the University of Washington in Seattle, who led the study, said the seizures suggested that poaching was taking place on a scale unseen since 1989, when an international convention banned the ivory trade.

The trend is being driven by growing demand in the Far East, and organised crime is becoming increasingly involved, Dr Wasser said. The black market price of a kilogram of good quality ivory was about $100 in 1989, and had doubled by 2004. However, last year a smuggled kilogram, was fetching $750 (£395), raising the financial incentive for poaching.

Make the trade illegal and you hand it over to the criminals. Sheesh, it's not that tough an idea is it?

There are areas of Africa where elephants are culled, officially. Sell the ivory from there and reduce the pressure on the other herds. Jeez, blanket  bans simply don't work, as we know from our own insane drug laws.

February 27, 2007 in Law | Permalink


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» Will selling legal ivory reduce poaching? from Fixed Point
Tom Palmer has a paper on popular market myths (HT: Tyler Cowen) and towards the end sounds a little caution about eulogising over markets too much. I thought about that paper when I read Tim Worstalls post on elephant poaching. Tim suggests tha... [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 28, 2007 1:52:30 PM


I believe that many African Goverments have vast stores of Ivory. If they release it in sufficient quantities then the price will fall below the level where poaching ays, and will generate an income for the goverments - seesm to be a win win situation (if you will pardon the new labourism).

Makes too much sense for the greenies however (and it includes the evil that is trade not handouts and laws)

Posted by: steves | Feb 27, 2007 10:52:21 AM

Not easy to manage. Though not made directly here, the conclusion that decriminalization will de-incentivize activity doesn't consider thoroughly the prospect that, at lower prices, demand will rise, likely sharply. Comparison with drug decriminalization is essentially flawed in that many advocates of the latter are far less concerned about resultant expansion of activity--may even consider it favorably.

Now, if they could only get those inscrutable ones to understand that there's nothing more aphrodisiac than powdered eyes of Jumbo-poachers, some balance could be struck. Quick--bring in the econometricians!

Posted by: gene berman | Feb 27, 2007 12:11:08 PM

I think you'll find that "the greenies" don't have a homogenous, one-size-fits-all attitude to this. There are many "greenies" for example, that find the idea of controlled culling to avoid illegal poaching a very sensible idea, if the wrinkles identified by Gene (for example) could be ironed out.

Posted by: Katherine | Feb 27, 2007 4:00:05 PM

It is a criminal waste of elephant.

If at least they had the decency to turn their feet into four umbrella stands, makes necklaces with the teeth, ate the meat, made shoes with the hide, sold the head as a hunting trophy (albeit sans tusks), used the rib cage as a children's cot and sold the tail to be used as a whip or something it wouldn't be so bad.

Posted by: Mark Wadsworth | Feb 27, 2007 4:20:03 PM

I can (just about), see a market-orientated argument as regards tusks, but I would nevertheless still argue against the culling/slaughtering of elephants rather than give into the demands of those Orientals who've never heard of viagra or want fancy carvings in their homes. As for a blanket drugs ban, I don't see the link. How would selling 'some' drugs help?

Posted by: Matthew Illsley | Feb 27, 2007 5:51:18 PM