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Ivory and Elephants  
CITES Timeline on ivory
Peter Matthiessen comments on ivory related deaths
Ian Parker offers another perspective
Japanese Wildlife Conservation Society ivory views
Recent Seizure of ivory bound for Japan
Ivory Markets of Africa

Suggested reading

CITES Timeline on ivory

1975 CITES (Conference on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) treaty approved and African elephants placed in Appendix II (allowing monitored international trade in ivory and other products) and the Asian elephant placed in Appendix I (no trade allowed in any products, including ivory). 
1989  (effective 1990) Cites approved upgrading all African elephants from Appendix II (threatened) to Appendix I (endangered)
1997  CITES (COP 10) down-listed the elephant populations in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to Appendix II to permit  them to sell stockpiles of ivory in one-time conditional sales, which occurred in 1999.
2000 
South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe withdrew proposals to allow ivory trade that they had submitted to (CITES).  Kenya and India withdrew their proposal to up-list the other countries' populations (from Appendix II back to I)  South African elephants downlisted to Appendix II.
2002 
South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe request to sell off existing stocks of ivory and be given annual quotas for selling elephant  tusks.  Zambia has not asked for a quota, but has requested permission to sell existing stocks.
2006 CITES delays request by South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana to sell ivory stockpiles.

 

Peter Matthiesen comments on ivory related deaths

Peter Matthiessen in African Silences (1991) noted the following dramatic population losses:
 

"Before 1970 there were thought to be well over 100,000 elephants in the Central African Republic.  Official exports of ivory jumped from 4 tons to over 165 tons in a single year.  In just five years, it was thought that 4/5 of the elephants in the eastern part of the country were slaughtered.

Between 1982 and 1984 exports dropped from 200 tons to 40.  In 1984, an aerial survey of C.A.R.’s northern parks could locate no more than 4300 elephants, a decline of nearly 90 percent in just four years1."

He further commented on the situation in Murchison Park, Uganda which in 1961 held 12,000 elephants - numbers reduced to 300 by 1986. 2 Thousands of elephants killed for ivory and possibly for food.

Matthiessen also noted that, "In 1970 in Kenya, there were 20,000 black rhino, by 1986 the number had fallen to 550.3

He also gives us the quote from Stanley after Stanley had been traveling with the Arab slave trader Tippu Tub into the heart of Africa:

"And speaking of ivory…”there is not a single piece nowadays which has been gained lawfully.  Every tusk, piece, and scrap…has been steeped and dyed in blood.  Every pound weight has cost the life of a man, woman, or child, for every five pounds a hut has been burned, for every two tusks a whole village has been destroyed, every twenty tusks have been obtained at the price of a district with all its people, villages, and plantations.  It is simply incredible that, because ivory is required for ornaments or billiard games, the rich heart of Africa should be laid waste…that populations, tribes, and nations should be utterly destroyed.”4

Ian Parker offers another perspective

Ian Parker is a former Kenya game warden, ivory consultant, and  entrepreneur.  His book, Ivory Wars, was published in 1983.  He did not have the hindsight of Matthiessen, though I doubt that this would have changed his opinions significantly.  Parker argues that the elephant deaths attributed to the ivory trade would have eventually occurred anyway, as a result of declining elephant habitat.  In addition, he sees "found ivory" from natural deaths of elephants as too valuable a resource to be ignored or controllable by legal means.
 

"...no reported declines of elephant numbers in South Africa and Zimbabwe in the 70’s…instead continuous culling programs…in both countries, elephants are predominantly in national parks or reserves …in Malawi, poaching may be accomplishing the same role as culling. 

Botswana and Somalia had no registered declines during the 70’s though declines may have occurred.  Sudan had major poaching though results not documented and Kenya and Uganda experienced major reductions.

The elephant range in Uganda declined from 70 percent of the land area in 1929 to less than 9 percent in 1969.  The average tusk weight declined from 24kg in 1925-30 to 18 kg in 1955-60."5 

Parker certainly admits that poaching was active in Kenya and critically describes past Kenya regulations which he said led early on to a poaching ethic in that country.
"The policies of Britain in colonial Kenya practically assured the continuation and expansion of illegal trading in ivory.  The government became the only legal purchaser of ivory and offered a fixed price equal to only about 10 percent of the market value of ivory."6  "In 1976 Kenya banned all hunting."7
Parker's greatest criticism is reserved for conservation organizations which he feels have taken advantage of the blood and gore high profile aspect of elephant poaching in order to raise funds.  What concerns him is his opinion that in doing this, the conservation message is glossing over the more difficult issues of long-term elephant habitat loss and degradation. 

The chart below (by Hank Hammatt9) is indicative of the basis of problems that Parker perceived as being even more significant than ivory poaching.

African Elephant Range Countries
 Human Population Growth
9

1900    71.1 million
1950  166.3 million
1970   275.1 million
1985   419.5 million
2000   626.6 million
 2025e 1,172.6 million

These are very dramatic numbers.  None of us want to see elephant poaching.  But, with numbers like this, poaching may just be masking a much more serious long-term problem facing Africa's elephants.

Japanese Wildlife Conservation Society ivory views

The Japanese Wildlife Conservation Society recently (2000) published a brochure outlining illegal smuggling of ivory into Japan and reached these conclusions:8

“It can be inferred that the downlisting and the resumption of ivory trade have been stimulating illegal trade in ivory as well as the domestic marketing of and demand for ivory hankos in Japan, judging from new supply of raw material from 3 southern African countries with low prices, the movements in the ivory industries, the trend of ivory smuggling into Japan after downlisting and the information about illegal ivory destined to Japan.

Also, it can be inferred that the resumption may be contributing to stimulation of the marketing of a demand for ivory accessories, judging from the quality of the imported ivory unsuitable for manufacture of hankos particularly.

In conclusion, the downlisting of 3 nations’ populations of African elephant must be said a failure and the populations must be transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I.  Also, downlisting of any other populations must be avoided at this time.”

Recent Seizure of ivory bound for Japan
On June 28, 2002, the largest shipment of illegal ivory since the 1989 ban was seized by authorities in Singapore.  Bound from Zambia via Malawi and Zimbabwe, the shipment was destined for Japan.10 The shipment consisted of
532 elephant tusks and more than 40,000 cut pieces of ivory, over 6 metric tons in total.
 

Ivory Markets of Africa
A substantial and well documented report on the Ivory Markets of Africa, was recently funded by Save the Elephants and carried out by Esmond Bradley Martin and Daniel Stiles.  Link here to see that report.

Ongoing Debate

Today, the south African nations continue to push for the re-opening of ivory trade so that they may utilize these monetary resources to continue to augment their successful elephant programs.  The middle African nations (especially Kenya) fear that any ivory sales just open the potential for massive poaching in their areas.  This hotly contested issue will be debated for years.

For additional perspectives, read our section on human-elephant conflict, and view statistics that have relevance to this issue.
 
Suggested readingAt the Hand of Man by Raymond Bonner
                                African Silences by Peter Matthiessen
                                Ivory Crisis by Ian Parker

Read these and other books to understand some of the different perspectives on this emotional and controversial issue
 
1 Matthiessen, Peter 1991 African Silences,  Random House, NY p 120
2
ibid  p 103
3
ibid p 122
4 ibid p 118
5 Parker, Ian  1983   Ivory Crisis, Chatto & Windus Ltd., The Hogarth Press,
   London p 151
6 ibid p 120
7 ibid
8 Sakamoto, Masayuki  2000  ”Effect of Resumption of International Trade on
  Japanese Ivory Market”  Japanese Wildlife Conservation Society
9 Jan Lahmeyer, Population Statistics (was the source of the raw data) http://www.library.uu.nl/wesp/populstat/populhome.html
10
anon, BBC on-line
Thursday, 11 July, 2002

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