I just read an interesting blog post from National Geographic “Does Destroying Ivory Save Elephants? Experts Weigh In“. Of course, a big public display of destroying artworks made from illegally hunted elephants makes in impact. National Geographic garnered the opinions of thinkers from all over the world, and their perspectives are equally varied.
For me, those people who are predisposed to thinking poorly of the ivory trade won’t be any more swayed by its destruction. They will continue to do what they can to protect elephants which, in most cases, is very little.
On the other hand, those people who value ivory artworks for their rarity (noting that China is the biggest market for this) might, in many ways, appreciate the burning of confiscated stashes, in that there is now less ivory in which other people can invest. Their pieces have now risen in value, increasing the ferocity of the the trade in this shrinking commodity. In this, it mimics directly the fine art market, in which an artist’s death is one cause of increase in the market value of the works.
That said, there may still be a reason to do burn ivory. That is that by making a public display of the the destruction, they are keeping the issue simmering just a little bit more warmly on the political agenda. In a time in America where even local environmental issues are being sidelined (and new ones being created every day), the plight of elephants and the illicit trade in ivory needs all the help it can get.
I’m often asked if I’m hopeful about the future of Africa’s megafauna. As I wrote in my last post, it’s an extraordinarily complex problem that needs to be addressed at every level of the supply chain. The most important component of this is not (I believe) with the highly organized and intractable market communities (although I could be wrong – consider the success with shark fins), but with the vulnerable source communities – the poachers. While it remains more profitable to kill animals and sell its products than it is to protect them, the wildlife of this planet is on a steady trajectory toward extinction.