Legal Ivory Trade in a Corrupt World

A new peer-reviewed paper in the scientific journal 'Conservation Biology' examines the merits of a regulated legal trade in ivory.

By the time the 1989 ban in the international trade of elephant ivory was established, the commercially valuable resource that ivory had become had led to the decimation of African elephants - between 1979 and 1989, the continent's population of elephants had been more than halved: 1.3 million had dropped to 600,000. After the ban came into effect the market price of ivory plumetted and poaching dropped drastically, but the ink on the ban's agreement was not long dry before attempts were made to weaken it. 

A regulated trade was one of the alternatives proposed to the ban and was thankfully never established, but as a parallel mechanism to the ban, the idea didn't go away and still hasn't. In 2007, member countries to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) decided to establish a mechanism for any future legal international ivory trade. Since then however there have been record breaking levels of elephant killing and illegal trade in ivory and the decision to set up such a mechanism is now not only out of date but dangerously so. Many believe this idea needs to be abandoned and so far the process has been largely delayed.

The paper just published highlights the critical role of corruption and organised crime, echoing Born Free's recent ground breaking report on the ivory trade (Ivory's Curse), and highlights how unfeasible it would be to ensure any legal ivory trade is not abused as a laundering mechanism for illegal, poached ivory. The author concludes that to conserve remaining wild populations, all markets for ivory must be closed.

The full paper is accessible here.


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