Can A Legal Trade in Ivory Save Elephants?

2 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2016 Last revised: 23 Jan 2018

Date Written: September 10, 2016


This paper argues that nothing other than a legal trade in ivory can save Africa’s elephants. The human population in Africa has reduced the available range for elephants by over 40% since 1995. Unless the correct suite of incentives is in place, it is unlikely that rural people will tolerate elephants.

This year Southern Africa will experience an environmental disaster of unprecedented magnitude. Millions of people will be without food and water before the end of the year. Unless Southern Africa can find higher-valued land uses than subsistence agriculture and livestock husbandry, disaster appears inevitable. CITES prevents adaptation to the current crisis. The combination of ivory trade bans, demand reduction and increased militarisation act against a solution. CITES has had 27 years to assess the efficacy of the ivory trade ban and it is clear to any impartial observer that it has not worked.

Keywords: Ivory Trade, Incentives, Trade Bans

JEL Classification: D00, D31, D78, E01, F13, F18, F60

Suggested Citation

Martin, Rowan, Can A Legal Trade in Ivory Save Elephants? (September 10, 2016). Available at SSRN:

Rowan Martin (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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