Ivory trade is a deeply polarised issue. Before 1989’s international ban on ivory trade, elephant poaching was rampant and the trade in ivory out of control. African elephant numbers plummeted from an estimated 1.3 million in 1979 to 600,000 in 10 years.
In recognition of the looming disaster, African countries and conservationists called for an immediate ban. A handful of countries did not agree and since 1989 we have seen a slow chipping away at the conditions on trade: these African elephant range states want a full resumption of ivory trade, while the majority do not.
The world has changed dramatically since 1989 with emerging political and economic super powers, particularly China, coming to the fore and driving demand for status goods and commodities; ivory features high on this list.
And while we argue the pros and cons of ivory trade and how it results – or doesn’t, as some firmly claim – in the poaching of thousands of elephants to meet the resurging demand for ivory, we are witnessing a new onslaught on African elephant populations, as well as on the more beleaguered Asian elephants. The growing number of large ivory seizures around the world points clearly to the involvement of transnational syndicates of highly organised international criminals cashing in.
With 25 years experience of investigating and exposing the ongoing illegal trade in ivory, EIA’s expertise is needed now more than ever. Fulfilling an essential role in the protection of elephants and their habitats, we have a proven track record of exposing the illegal ivory trade.