John Frederick Walker

JFW Review of Myanmar’s Growing Illegal Ivory Trade with China

Posted in elephant and ivory news, Uncategorized by JFW on October 8, 2020

“This disturbing report is the last of the late Esmond Martin’s collaborations with Lucy Vigne, who worked with him on a groundbreaking series of meticulously researched monographs on endangered wildlife trade studies, including analyses of Asian ivory markets covering three decades. Vigne brought this project to completion in 2018….”

To read the rest of my review, which appears in Pachyderm No. 61, July 2019 – June 2020, click here.

Towers of Ivory: Does Japan have an ivory problem? It’s complicated.

Posted in art news, elephant and ivory news by JFW on December 6, 2019

In a just-published essay in The Smart Set, I examine Japan’s domestic legal ivory market, which is widely thought by many conservationists to be contributing to elephant poaching.  Does it?

Given the widespread laundering of poached tusks in national ivory markets elsewhere, most elephant advocates are convinced that it must be happening in Japan as well — even if there’s no evidence of it.

The problem Japan has with ivory sales is much more complicated: it’s a tangle of seductive traditional art, insufficient enforcement and growing rejection of sustainable wildlife trade….

Read the entire article at

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JFW review of The Ivory Trade of Laos: Now the Fastest Growing in the World

Posted in conservation news, elephant and ivory news, ivory news by JFW on September 25, 2018

My review of Esmond Bradley Martin and Lucy Vigne’s latest ivory trade report appears in the issue 59 of Pachyderm.  I write that it makes for grim but “required reading for anyone trying to keep up with how the international ivory trade continues to fuel crisis-level elephant poaching.”  The review can accessed here.



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JFW review of Ivory: Power and Poaching in Africa

Posted in conservation news, elephant and ivory news, ivory news by JFW on October 1, 2017


My review of Keith Somerville’s important new book Ivory appears in the current issue of Pachyderm.  Somerville, a veteran of numerous assignments in Africa during his career with the BBC, brings his journalistic skills to this grim, detailed chronicle of the exploitation of elephants and disempowered Africans. Click here for the complete review. 




JFW interviewed on CGTNAmerica

Posted in art news, conservation news, elephant and ivory news by JFW on August 15, 2017
“CGTN’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke to John Frederick Walker about the state of elephant populations and conservation measures. Walker is the author of “Ivory’s Ghosts: The White Gold of History and the Fate of Elephants.””
Here’s the YouTube link:

The Dark Side of Ivory Prohibition: Will it help elephants or just vandalize culture?

Posted in art news, conservation news, elephant and ivory news, ivory news by JFW on August 4, 2017
In a just-published essay in The Smart Set, I look at how recent anti-ivory attitudes threaten to become counter-productive to anti-poaching efforts.  It’s a controversial subject, but shouldn’t be ignored.

With 25,000 African elephants being slain every year for their tusks, maybe it was inevitable that elephant advocates would grow impatient with critically important but slow-paced efforts to help rural communities co-exist with Africa’s herds, root out endemic corruption in range states, and expose international wildlife trafficking rings.

Now, nearly three decades after the ban, with no end to elephant poaching in sight, their attitudes have gone strident, spiraling into emotion-driven campaigns and unhinged extremism that threatens to turn the war on poaching into an incoherent war on ivory….


Read the entire article at

JFW on mammoth ivory

Posted in conservation news, elephant and ivory news, ivory news by JFW on March 28, 2017

In a fascinating BBC News piece on How an obscure seed is helping to save the elephant, business reporter Kait Bolongaro explains how tagua seed from ivory-nut palms (known as “vegetable ivory”) and tusks from long-extinct mammoths are finding ready markets as substitutes for elephant ivory.  I’m quoted on ethically-sourced mammoth ivory  from the Siberian tundra, which varies from hard, almost petrified examples, to remarkably well-preserved tusks.

“John Frederick Walker, an expert on ivory, says: ‘Master carvers tend to prefer elephant ivory because fresh elephant ivory is easier to carve. But in fact, you can make wonderful things from mammoth ivory.’ ”

Both tagua and mammoth ivory are examples of natural, organic materials   that share much of the tactile attraction of elephant ivory, but unlike tusks from poached elephants, can be sourced guilt-free: the first is a palm-tree seed, the second from a long-expired ancestor of today’s elephant.


JFW on CCTV-America Ivory Trade Debate

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I was interviewed on CCTV-America last night on the ivory trade in a debate with Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA.  As always, not enough time to make a number of key points, but was able to discuss some critical issues.  The 8-minute exchange is here.

Why Prohibiting Trade in Ivory Won’t Save Elephants

Posted in elephant and ivory news, ivory news by JFW on June 3, 2015

ele sepiaWhat if we’re wrong about how best to save elephants from being killed for their ivory?  In an opinion piece for Earth Island Journal, I argue that a controlled, legal trade is more likely to slow elephant poaching than the outright ban of all ivory trade now widely advocated.  The article is here.

JFW on ivory trade at ASIL meeting in Washington DC

Posted in conservation news, elephant and ivory news, ivory news by JFW on April 16, 2015

Wildlife Photo

On April 9th, I joined Craig Hoover, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Susan Lieberman, Federal Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, and Anna Frostic, Humane Society of the U.S., on an American Society of International Law panel in Washington, DC organized by Rachelle Adam of Hebrew University. The subject?  “Can International Law Help Prevent the Rapid Disappearance of Wildlife?” The entire panel can be seen on YouTube.  My presentation starts at 17 minutes in, and runs for 13 minutes.