Elephants and Ivory: Lessons from the Trade Ban

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The authors examine the example of elephants in this exposition of the arguments favouring 'sustainable utilization'. This approach ensures species survival by employing a framework based upon property rights, enforcement of those rights and local community involvement.

Executive Summary

The African elephant is not an endangered species: there are at least 10 viable populations.

The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) broke its own rules by listing the African elephant as endangered.

The international trade ban, instigated by CITES, was opposed by 73 per cent of those countries with elephant populations.

Southern African countries argue that allowing trade maximises the value of elephants.

Prior to the ban, the elephant populations in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe had increased with the assistance of protection made possible by tourism and the sale of hunting licences.

Banning the use of elephant products reduces the value of the elephant by denying financial benefit to the elephant's custodians.

Kenya banned hunting in 1976. Since then, it has lost 85 per cent of its elephants.

Zimbabwe granted land-owners title to their wildlife in 1975; since then, land devoted to wildlife has increased from 17,000 to 30,000 square kilometres.

Ownership of the communal or private level, rather than by the State, will ensure that the benefits, not just the costs, of conservation will fall on the local population.

The sustainable utilisation or CAMPFIRE project in Zimbabwe has brought custodianship of wildlife to the local level - it is a model for future conservation.
 

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