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60-Second Earth

Antique Markets Used to Launder Poached Ivory

Legal ivory markets that are supposed to only deal in stockpiles and antiques inevitably launder poached ivory. Close them all, says WCS vice president for species conservation. David Biello reports

 

We may be the last generation to see elephants in the wild. Because people still want ivory.
 
Nearly two-thirds of all forest elephants have been killed for their tusks in the last decade, some 60 elephants per day. At least 30,000 elephants of all three remaining species have died each year in recent years. At that rate, wild elephants will be gone in just a few decades. All so their modified incisors can be used as a raw material for art in Asia or the bows of string instruments in Europe.
 
In fact, the continued demand, along with the dwindling numbers of elephants, have pushed up prices for ivory. The resulting sales of tusks feed terrorist groups, not the poor. These extremist poachers employ machine guns, night-vision goggles and even helicopters.
 
Only one action can save the world’s wild elephants, according to Elizabeth Bennett, Vice President for Species Conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society: close all ivory markets. Her analysis is in the journal Conservation Biology. [Elizabeth L. Bennett, Legal Ivory Trade in a Corrupt World and its Impact on African Elephant Populations]
 
International trade in fresh ivory is already banned. But legal markets persist in Asia, fed by confiscated ivory stockpiles and antiques. Inevitably, those markets serve to launder poached ivory and drive demand. Therefore, all ivory markets must be closed. Otherwise we may be living through the end times for elephants.
 
—David Biello
 
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]
 

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