2018 should be a better year for the African elephant, ending a decade of merciless poaching for their ivory tusks. Ten years ago, legal trade in elephant ivory resumed in China and as the economy boomed, poaching climbed from a few thousand elephants a year to 33,000 – one every 15 minutes. The reversal of that decision is likely to be the greatest single step toward reducing elephant poaching.
The history of the ivory trade has shown that rather than replace illegal trade, “regulated trade” enables vast laundering of poached ivory into retail circles, and open promotion greatly increases the market. Despite years of government effort to perfect a theoretically watertight system, traders were easily able to pass off ivory stolen from Africa as legitimate using paperwork provided by naïve or, in some cases, corrupt officials. Story by Peter Knights/CEO of WildAid