Our comments about the proposed CITES mammoth ivory policy
If the Great Elephant Census has taught us anything, it is that Demand Destruction results in Population Destruction. Throughout history, and most notably since the 1970s, we have seen populations of elephants decline most dramatically in African regions where elephants have been most seriously devalued. Whether it is in forest regions, Central Africa, or Eastern Africa, everywhere trading ivory has been banned, hunting eliminated, and trading animal parts criminalized, populations of elephants have dramatically decreased. On the other hand, in Southern Africa, the countries that legalized hunting and endeavored to preserve and trade ivory have seen elephant populations expand beyond what their habitats can naturally support.
The reason why Demand Destruction results in Population Destruction is because wildlife conservation, especially for large mammals, is primarily a land use issue. Large wild animals need lots of space to thrive. How much space per animal depends largely on available food and water sources. It also depends on what the animal is competing with. CITES – the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species – was founded on this principal. Its purpose was to increase the value of wildlife through regulated trade so communities and nations had financial incentives to expand ranges where wildlife could thrive instead of converting those lands into farms and ranches. This work was never going to be easy, but it was vital.
Unfortunately, CITES has lost its way. Instead of adopting sustainable conservation measures, CITES is punishing success and rewarding failure. Instead of modeling successful programs like those in Zimbabwe and South Africa where white rhinos were saved and elephants thrive in huge numbers, Animal Rights influenced NGOs are expressly and overtly trying to strip all commercial value from elephants and rhinos. They are turning large mammals into pests where the benefits of eradication outweigh the costs of preserving rangelands. As the human population in Africa expands, people have greater need for farms and ranches to feed their population, not to mention resources to fight extreme poverty throughout the continent. What do you think will happen to worthless elephants, rhinos and other large animals that consume huge quantities of water and food and compete for fertile regions?
The proposed Mammoth policy is another lurch in the wrong direction. Instead of encouraging the use of mammoth ivory over poached elephant ivory, the proposed policy would make it more difficult and expensive to use and trade mammoth ivory. Particularly in the United States where no one EVER established the presence of a significant trade in illegal ivory, the mammoth proposal is attempting to create a paper trail for a problem that does not exist. The alleged laundering problem with mammoth ivory is a distraction from the real problem that NGOs have no answer for – inevitable land use conflicts in Africa. Instead, they are making the problems worse by devaluing wildlife as real demand for their fertile range lands increases. They are diverting the public’s attention from their failure to find a sustainable balance between wildlife and development in Africa, while raising huge amounts of money with virtue signaling ad campaigns. They are also starving successful programs and communities that employ Sustainable Use for wildlife conservation of the needed revenue to maintain their parks and wildlife areas.
While innocent people are punished for using or collecting mammoth ivory, organizations raise massive amounts of money based on misleading emotional appeals that ultimately harm the animals they claim to love. When CITES was established, no one could have foreseen the absurd possibility of listing a species that has been extinct for millennia on the endangered species list. Stop punishing the successful while rewarding the failures. Stop the insanity now.