By Irving “Pete” Vigdor
The Philippines, Gabon, Kenya and recently the United States did the politically correct thing by destroying tons of ivory.
One rationale by conservationists is that this will demonstrate that ivory has no value. However, with knowledge that tons of ivory are permanently out of the market, demand will continue to the delight of poachers. All of the animals that produced the ivory are dead, so with continuing demand, the poachers will be encouraged to kill more elephants and rhinos.
If I had had anything to say about the disposition of the ivory, I would have proposed offering the open market all of the finished pieces at prices low enough to make poaching unprofitable.
Were this policy adopted, world market prices for ivory would drop dramatically for three or more years which would afford these animals time to reproduce. Even if the re-population is not as large as it had been before poaching began, three years of calves will grow into, perhaps thousands of elephants and rhinos.
About 40 years ago, the rhino population in South Africa had been decimated by poachers.
While in South Africa has been leader in animal conservation, it could not put a halt to the slaughter. Then, they rounded up the handful of rhinos remaining and shipped them to a game reserve in Zululand, which they manned with armed guards. Today, hundreds of rhinos live in the Hluhlui reserve (pronounced: Shooshloowee).
I don’t know for sure if the rhino population has ever grown so large that the government sold them to game reserves, etc. All I can say for sure is that I’ve been visiting Africa since 1966 and it was 17 years before I saw my first rhino and that was in Zimbabwe. Today, they do well because many reside in private game reserves all over Africa. Many people don’t know that a rhino’s horn is made of hair and that one horn for the hilt of an Arab’s dagger fetches $20,000.
I believe the destruction of ivory, which appears to be politically correct thing, must end up being counterproductive.