Face with the reality of increased elephant poaching, in 1999 the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) issued a ban on all international trade of ivory.
With no legitimate markets and customs officers across the world on the lookout for ivory, the killing of elephants declined and populations began to recover.
Then in 2008 Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, were given permission by Cites to auction around 107 tonnes of stockpiled elephant ivory that had been recovered since the ban.
Japan and China were to be the only buyers with conditions imposed that included a ban on exports.
The total haul sold for $15 million. The message this sent was clear – there is a market for ivory in China and Japan.
Hardly surprising then that elephant poaching has increased since 2008 and is now part of sophisticated organised crime, presumably making millions of dollars every year.
WWF states: ‘Around 90% of African elephants have been wiped out in the past century – mainly due to the ivory trade. Elephant poaching, even though it’s illegal, has been getting dramatically worse in parts of Africa in the last 10 years – mostly because of growing demand for ivory in China and the Far East. Around 20,000 African elephants are being killed every year for their ivory – that’s around 55 every day.’
We are all very aware that the Trump administration has been in a trade war with China, which has hurt China’s economy. The South China Morning Post wrote in August ‘The powerful export machine of China is quickly losing steam‘ as a result of tariffs.
So, why isn’t the rest of the world applying the same sort of pressure on these markets to do more to prevent the in-flow of illegal ivory?