Can Elephants Survive a Legal Ivory Trade?

Conservation by from National Geographic, August 29, 2014

While the debate continues over the potential merits of limited legal ivory trade to China, evidence suggests that the one-off sale of ivory in 2008 has proved disastrous to elephants, who have since been slaughtered at the gruesome rate of about 100 elephants a day.

This debate has been waxing and waning since at least 1989, when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to “ban” the international trade in ivory after a ferocious wave of poaching in Africa that left hundreds of thousands of elephants butchered. Some conservationists say that a limited legal ivory trade is needed to satiate demand, especially in China, in a controlled manner.

Many others argue that the 1989 ban must be kept in place to protect elephants, especially now that poaching has once again risen to catastrophic levels. One hundred thousand elephants were slaughtered from 2010 through 2012, according to a study published in the August 19 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A legal trade, they say, would only lead to even greater demand for ivory.

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