Azara Blog: Europe's ivory market allegedly a problem

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Date published: 2005/10/03

The BBC says:

Europe's thriving ivory retail market is threatening an increase in elephant poaching, conservationists have warned.

More than 27,000 ivory products were found on sale in five major European countries where investigators went: the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Global conservation groups Care for the Wild and Save the Elephants say an active ivory market spurs poachers on.
Their report also warned that all ivory, even if legally sourced, contributed to the slaughter of elephants.

Care for the Wild's chief executive, Barbara Maas, said the trade in Europe was predominantly in old ivory.

"Although technically legal, we mustn't forget that every item represents a dead elephant."
Illegal ivory out of Africa is now bypassing Europe and being shipped to East Asia where high demand is inflating prices, according to the report authors.

China has an unregulated ivory market and they warned that unless something is done to control demand, nothing would change in Africa.

Iain Douglas-Hamilton, head of Save the Elephants, said that in unstable countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, the demand was fuelling "a poaching holocaust".

As Europe's legal ivory stocks dwindle, some craftsmen are using mammoth tusks as a substitute. The tusk is brittle and discoloured but prized by collectors.

Another co-author of the report, Dr Dan Stiles, said that in north-east Siberia the permafrost was melting as a result of climate change and exposing large numbers of mammoth remains.

"There is no way of quantifying stockpiles but we found 3,424 mammoth ivory pieces in Germany and France alone," he said.

The mammoth is an extinct species and requires no documentation for trading - a fact already being exploited.

Unfortunately the ridiculous nature of what reads rather like a press release from the two organisations mentioned might well be hiding a real problem. In the first paragraph Europeans are blamed for the illegal trade. Alarming numbers (27,000) are quoted. But further on we find that "the trade in Europe was predominantly in old ivory" and "illegal ivory ... is now bypassing Europe" and that some of the trade is down to (legal) "mammoth ivory pieces". So one is left with the impression that probably very little of the 27,000 is actually illegal. But of course that spoils the alarmist story, so we are told "we mustn't forget that every item represents a dead elephant". Unfortunately hysterical press releases will do nothing to bring back elephants killed 100 years ago and there is nothing wrong, morally or legally, with using and trading ivory from long-dead elephants or mammoths. By all means, make modern ivory uncool so more elephants are not killed illegally now, but don't use black propaganda to do it.

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