Monday, 13 June 2016

Legal ivory sale drove dramatic increase in elephant poaching, study shows

Research shows the legal sale in 2008 catastrophically backfired – but two African nations want to repeat the stockpile sell-off

Monday 13 June 201614.00 BSTLast modified on Monday 13 June 201615.25 BST

A huge legal sale of ivory intended to cut elephant poaching instead catastrophically backfired by dramatically increasing elephant deaths, according to new research.

The revelation comes just months before a decision on whether to permit another legal sale and against a backdrop of more African elephants being killed for ivory than are being born. In 2015 alone, 20,000 elephants were illegally killed.

The international trade in ivory was banned in 1989 but, in 2008, China and Japan were allowed to pay $15m for 107 tonnes of ivory stockpiled from elephants that died naturally in four African nations. The intention was to flood the market, crash prices and make poaching less profitable.

But instead, the legal sale was followed by “an abrupt, significant, permanent, robust and geographically widespread increase” in elephant poaching, concluded researchers Prof Solomon Hsiang at the University of California Berkeley and Nitin Sekar at Princeton University, whose work was published on Monday.

“We now have pretty striking evidence that these sales can be catastrophic. It backfired in a very bad way,” Hsiang told the Guardian. “I used to be a big proponent of legalisation in general to reduce the adverse effects of black markets. But through doing this work I have realised you have to be much more cautious. My own views have changed dramatically.”

The researchers think the legal sale reduced the stigma of ivory, boosting demand, and provided cover for the smuggling of illegal ivory, boosting supply. So, while the price of ivory fell after the legal sale, poaching increased.

Read on … 

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