Some rare good news for elephants: The price of ivory is plummeting

April 3, 2017, 11:28 a.m.
A herd of elephants walking across savannah
Photo: Hans Wagemaker/Shutterstock

Between 2007 and 2014, poachers killed almost 30 percent of East Africa’s savanna elephants, and between 2002 and 2013, they wiped out nearly two-thirds of central Africa’s forest elephants, according to a survey published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Statistics show that as long as the ivory trade is doing well, there is little to no chance of sparing elephants from the poachers' weapons.

But a glimmer of hope comes with a new report from Save The Elephants (STE) that shows the price of ivory is dropping precipitously. According to the report, the wholesale price of ivory in China, the leading market in elephant tusks, has dropped from $2,100 per kilogram to just $730 per kilogram. Outlets for ivory in China are dropping their retail prices and reducing how much they have available for sale.

STE credits an economic slump alongside strong public awareness campaigns and China's commitment to end its ivory trade. The New York Times reports:

In China, there are officially registered shops selling ivory and a thriving black market doing the same. Last December, China responded, announcing it was shutting down all ivory commerce by the end of 2017. It seems the price of ivory has dropped in anticipation of the ban; many analysts believe it will soon drop further.

Researchers for Save the Elephants said the Chinese ivory business seemed depressed, with vendors pessimistic about their future. Many are replacing ivory jewelry and trinkets with items made from alternative materials, like clamshell. According to the report, China plans to shut ivory factories at the end of this month and close all retail outlets by the end of the year.

“This is a critical period for elephants,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, president and founder of STE. “With the end of the legal ivory trade in China, the survival chances for elephants have distinctly improved. We must give credit to China for having done the right thing by closing the ivory trade. There is still a long way to go to end the excessive killing of elephants for ivory, but there is now greater hope for the species."

If you're interested in helping elephants, there is more you can do than simply avoiding ivory products. Check out our list of six ways to help elephants.