What is ivory?
An elephant’s tusks are made from ivory and they are actually enlarged teeth. It just goes to show how strange it is to covet ivory, and that elephants are being killed in their thousands…for their teeth.
Ivory has been prized throughout history and is still seen as a luxury object in certain parts of the world. Ivory has been carved into a wide range of objects, including statues, musical instruments and smaller trinkets like jewelry. China is the largest consumer of illegal ivory, where consumers associate it with rarity, luxury and status.However China have been leading the world on this, with President Xi Jinping has pledged to close this market alongside President Obama in the US.
The international trade of ivory was banned in 1989 in response to concerns over the conservation of elephant populations due to high levels of poaching. Initially this ban led to a decline in elephant poaching in most parts of Africa and many elephant populations began to increase.
However, the number of elephants being poached for their ivory began to increase again from 2006, with an even sharper increase in levels of poaching from 2008 to 2011. Despite poaching rates leveling from 2011, they remain unacceptably high and unsustainable.
Stopping the Trade
A great deal needs to be done to stop elephants being killed for their ivory. In addition to anti-poaching work on the ground, it is vital to prevent the trafficking of ivory and reduce demand for this product. A key step in the right direction is to close domestic ivory markets across the world to help save elephants.
Sales of ivory, including within legal domestic markets, increases the risk to elephant populations and local communities–as domestic ivory markets provide cover for illegal trade, reinforce the high value of ivory and ultimately threaten the survival of many populations of elephants. The time has come to put an end to ivory trade, once and for all.
Closing domestic ivory markets does not mean owning items with ivory would become illegal; family heirlooms would not be impacted at all. Efforts to end commercial trade in ivory also recognize that limited exemptions such as musical instruments that contain very minimal amounts of ivory may still be allowed; how markets are closed is up to individual governments.