Legitimate Ivory Trade A Benefit, Not a Threat, to Elephants
IPN Opinion article
The Independent (UK) (Letter to the Editor)
Sir: The Environmental Investigation Agency's desire to maintain the ban on ivory trade ("Far Eastern Demand for ivory fuels boom in poaching", 29 October), does not reflect the concerns of poor Africans, who bear the brunt of damage caused by marauding elephants that destroy crops and trample humans, but receive few of the benefits resulting from their conservation. Nor does it reflect the concerns of a growing number of conservationists who see a resumption of legal trade in ivory as a benefit not a threat to elephants.
If a demand exists for ivory in Asia, why shouldn't it be sold there? If local Africans were able to own elephants and trade in ivory, they could reap huge economic benefits. Moreover, ownership would give locals a strong incentive to protect elephants from poachers and ensure their survival. When demand for lamb increases, the EIA doesn't suddenly shout about the imminent demise of the world's sheep population or demand that Europeans stop selling sheep. Why? Because sheep are private property and an increase in demand actually leads to an increase in sheep numbers, as farmers realise there is money to be made breeding them. Where elephants are privately owned in Africa, poaching has not been a significant problem and numbers of elephants have risen.
By pushing the ivory trade underground, the United Nation's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) ban drives up the price of ivory, making dead elephants more valuable than live ones. By supporting the Kenyan government position, the EIA promotes a form of ecoimperialism destined to keep Africans poor as well as undermining wildlife conservation.
Director, Inter Region Economic Network, Nairobi, Kenya