John Frederick Walker

Kenya’s 100 ton ivory burn

Posted in conservation news, ivory news by JFW on April 29, 2016

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On April 30, 2016, Kenya will incinerate 105 metric tons of ivory—5% of global stocks— to “send a message.” Does this make sense?  Or is it a “self-delusional publicity stunt,” as  Mike Norton-Griffiths and Daniel Stiles wrote in the Times of London today, one that could cause a spike in ivory prices, and stimulate more poaching?

Louise Osborne’s piece, “To burn or sell ivory: Which can put an end to elephant poaching?” also appeared today in Deutsche Welle.  She surveys current pro-burn conservation opinion on the planned destruction and also includes my take on the matter:

“John Frederick Walker, who has written widely on the trade of ivory, says ivory has been valued since prehistoric times and is not simply a ‘passing fad.’

‘The earliest carvings humans ever made were from the ivory of woolly mammoth,’ Walker told DW. ‘The attraction to ivory is embedded in world culture, from ancient Egypt to Europe to the far East. It’s a fantasy to think demand is ever going to disappear entirely,’ Walker said.

Instead, Walker advocates a highly restricted, controlled legal trade in naturally occurring ivory. This would work through use of techniques such as radiocarbon dating, micro-chipping and databases to keep track of the industry….”

Unfortunately, such arguments for harnessing demand through managing trade in legal ivory are increasingly viewed as fringe opinions.  That leaves only ivory stockpile destruction and ivory prohibition as strategy options, neither of which is likely to reduce elephant poaching.

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