Ivory trade ban: When, where, why?
The ivory trade originated in an ancient state Phenicia. As a rule, ivory means the tusk of living mammals of the probosci’s order. The value for products made from elephant tusk is quite high; in most cases, luxury items were made from it. Despite the prohibitions enshrined in the CITES Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Challender et al., 2015), the ivory trade continues to flourish in Asia and Africa (Aryal et al., 2018).
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This is the conclusion reached by employees of the organization “Save the Elephants”, headquartered in London, and the Kenyan wildlife agency KWS, who presented data from their research in the Kenyan capital Nairobi (Raja, 2015). In eight Asian cities visited by the inspectors, a total of 110,000 ivory products were found for sale. In Thailand alone, 88,000 items have been found (Luo & Gao, 2020).
Among the buyers, first of all, tourists and business people from France, Italy, and Germany (Charles, 2017). If on the Asian market a kilogram of ivory costs $ 250, then on the African market – $ 45 (Charles, 2017). Naturally, African ivory is in great demand and is exported mainly to China, where it is used to make jewelry, which is then exported to other Asian countries.
The ivory trade was banned in 1990 under the CITES convention. In 1997, at the CITES conference in Harare, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe secured permission for the controlled sale of ivory: either old stocks or the shooting of elephants in exceptional cases (Aryal et al., 2018). Today, trading in elephant bones remains quite popular on the black market. It is not easy to buy ivory products, and of course, what is prohibited rises in price. But a fierce fight against poachers does not save endangered animals from extinction (Titeca, 2019).
Another perspective: West vs. Rest
However, the ivory trade is not limited to the binary opposition of animal rights versus trophy hunting. Global capitalism and the local characteristics of Africa also need to be seen as an influencing factor in shaping the agenda. In 2019, five African countries, which have a large proportion of the elephant population, require a permit to trade in ivory (Sguazzin, 2019). The Presidents of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia, as well as the Angolan Environment Minister, noted the need for a common policy on the treatment of elephants.
They stressed that the conflict between farmers and the elephants living in the neighborhood was escalating. The authorities of Botswana, in particular, attribute this to the fact that the number of elephants in the country has grown from 55 thousand in 1991 to 160 thousand (Sguazzin, 2019). The participants in the meeting also announced an increase in poaching and an increase in ivory reserves obtained from the natural death of animals. Botswana President Mokvetsi Masisi, in particular, has proposed allowing elephant hunting. Representatives from five African countries also concluded that research is needed to better monitor animal populations.
In addition, the conflicts over this issue show the confrontation between the West and the rest of the world – “West vs. The rest”. Namibian President Hage Geingob also said that African countries “We should not be victims of our success in conservation, and the West must humble itself and learn conservation from us, instead of lecturing us on what to do.” (Shikongo, 2019) Botswana also lifted a five-year hunting ban in May, saying the move would help control the growing elephant population that is harming farmers. “We cannot continue to be spectators while others debate and take decisions about our elephants,” President Mokgwittsi Masisi said at a regional leaders’ meeting earlier this year (Shikongo, 2019).
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Steps for a compromise
Today, given the worldwide increase in crimes against wild flora and fauna, there is a need for closer international cooperation in the field of cooperation between law enforcement agencies through the exchange of operational information. Combating wildlife crime requires joining forces, sharing financial, human, and information resources. Governmental bodies of the countries of the world should exchange useful information regarding the threat to the environment because it is an essential prerequisite for effectively combating the ever-increasing sophistication of crime against wild flora and fauna.
Aryal, A., Morley, C. G., & McLean, I. G. (2018). Conserving elephants depend on a total ban of ivory trade globally. Biodiversity and Conservation, 27(10), 2767-2775.
Challender, D. W., Harrop, S. R., & MacMillan, D. C. (2015). Understanding markets to conserve trade-threatened species in CITES. Biological Conservation, 187, 249-259.
Charles, F. D. (2017). Ivory Coast Intra Regional Trade: The Role of Infrastructure and Economic Environment. Economics, 5(6), 595-607.
Luo, Y., & Gao, Y. (2020). In the wake of the China-Africa ivory trade: more-than-human ethics across borders. Social & Cultural Geography, 1-22.
Raja N. 2015. The ‘beehive fence’ project: a socio‐economic, cultural and environmentally appropriate human‐elephant conflict mitigation strategy. BS thesis. University of Durham, United Kingdom.
Shikongo, A. (2019). Namibia sticks to its guns on ivory trade.
Sguazzin, A. (2019). Elephant-rich African nations demand right to resume ivory sales.
Titeca, K. (2019). Illegal ivory trade as transnational organized crime? An empirical study into ivory traders in Uganda. The British Journal of Criminology, 59(1), 24-44.