Monday, February 26, 2007

Black Market Ivory Trade on the Rise

Illegal Ivory Trade Explodes –
DNA Tracks Origin of Seized Ivory –
Assigning African Elephant DNA to Geographic Region of Origin – PNAS

On Monday, a team of international scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reported that African elephants are in more danger now than they were in the mid 1980’s. In 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora banned the international trade of ivory.

According to the report, despite the 1989 ban, more than 20,000 elephants each year are being slaughtered for their tusks in Africa.

Ivory on the black market is currently valued at $750 per kilogram, which is significantly higher than the 1989 value of $100 per kilogram. Between August 2005 and August 2006, authorities seized 12 major shipments of African ivory headed for Japan, China, and other Asian countries. The 23, 461 kilograms seized is only an estimated 10 percent of the illegal ivory that was successfully smuggled out of Africa.

A 2002 seizure in Singapore consisted of 532 tusks and 42,000 hankos, small blocks of solid ivory used to make signature stamps. This was the second largest seizure of illegal ivory on record, the biggest since the 1989 ban, and represented 3,000 to 6,500 elephants. Research revealed the ivory came from a southern region of Africa, with Zambia as a focal point.

After the 1989 ban, millions of aid dollars poured into African countries to help them battle the illegal poaching of elephants. By 1993, the problem seemed to be under control. However, the demand for ivory has continued to grow, especially in Japan and China, where having a personal seal carved in ivory is a status symbol. China’s rapidly expanding economy is thought to be a major driving force driving the black market ivory trade.

The report identified some of the most pressing needs in elephant conservation as: the timely identification of current poaching "hot spots" where greater law enforcement is needed; monitoring impacts of international trade decisions on elephant poaching throughout the African continent; determining whether declared government stockpiles are being illegally traded and replenished; determining whether sanctioned one-time sales include non-sanctioned tusks originating from other locations; and determining whether stockpiles of illegal ivory across Africa are being consolidated and exported.

Question: Can (or should) anything be done to curtail the illegal sale of ivory?

No comments: