By Doug Bandow
Elephant poaching is rampant throughout Africa. Unfortunately, Western nations have exacerbated the problem by banning the sale of ivory. Elephants are dying as a result. The West should reopen the ivory trade.
Artists and artisans have used ivory for thousands of years. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to get tusks off a live elephant. So in 1989 the international sale of new ivory products was prohibited. Concluded analyst Peter Fitzmaurice, “with most nations adhering closely to the ban, the legal ivory trade has been decimated and value of this natural resource for range countries has been vastly diminished.”
Nevertheless, the illegal trade continues. Asia is the prime destination, but last year two New York City jewelers pled guilty to trafficking in illegal ivory. An estimated 38,000 African elephants are being killed annually, “more than at any time in decades,” reported the New York Times. The elephant population dropped from some 1.3 million in 1979 to 470,000 or even fewer today.
Failure is not for wont of conservation efforts. Reported the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): “record levels of ivory were seized and sustained throughout the period 2009 to 2011.” But that was not nearly enough.
Earlier this month the New York Times reported: “As ivory poaching becomes more militarized, with rebel groups and even government armies slaughtering thousands of elephants across Africa to cash in on record-high ivory prices, a horrible mismatch is shaping up.” The Christian Science Monitor cited “the growing professionalism of poachers bankrolled by international criminals,” which had resulted in a sevenfold increase in the number of elephants killed in Kenya.
CITES warned that the killings threatened even “previously secure large populations.” Added the Monitor: “The increase has led many wildlife experts to declare the current situation a crisis worse even than the mass slaughter of Africa’s elephants in the 1970s and ‘80s, which led to the global ivory trade ban in 1989.” More....