An artificial ivory scarcity
IPN Opinion article
Financial Times (letter to the editor)
Sir, Although some conservation groups and Kenya's government say that legal trade in ivory encourages poaching ("Ban on ivory trade lifted", November 13), it is actually the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) that has done so. Cites' prohibition of ivory sales has discouraged elephant conservation because it drives up the price of ivory, so encouraging poaching.
The real problem is that poor Africans bear the brunt of damage by marauding elephants that trample crops and human beings. To many poor Africans, elephants are a nuisance rather than an asset.
The Cites vote to allow ivory sales is an important step towards recognising that while trade prohibitions seem nice in principle, they create an artificial scarcity.
Pressure groups and governments need to recognise that decentralising conservation, by allowing local people to manage and own elephants, would give people a strong incentive to protect elephants, and importantly their habitat, from poachers, and to reap economic benefits from conservation and sustainable use.
James S. Shikwati, Director, Inter Region Economic Network, Nairobi, Kenya