Alarm raised as ivory prices soar

Monday July 14 2014

Ivory seized from smugglers is displayed in Dar es Salaam. A study has revealed that the price of the horns in key markets, including China, had tripled. Photo/FILE

A wildlife lobby Sunday raised the alarm over the drastic increase in the price of ivory and rhino horns.

A study commissioned by Save the Elephants has revealed that the price of the horns in key markets, including China, had tripled. This portends a grim future for Africa’s elephants and rhinos.

During the month-long survey, ivory researchers Esmond Martin and Lucy Vigne visited hundreds of retail outlets and factories in Beijing and Shanghai before they compared the new prices with the ones they established in Fuzhou four years ago.

“The average price paid by craftsmen or factory owners for good quality elephant tusks in Beijing is $2,100 per kilogramme. Similar tusks went for $750 per kilogramme in 2010,” said Dr Martin.

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Save the Elephants said the surge in the price of ivory was so attractive that poachers stepped up their activity.


“The huge demand and limited supply of ivory is driving a wave of killing of elephants across Africa that shows little sign of abating.

“With the ivory price in Africa being a tenth of that in China, substantial profits are being generated for organised crime that fuels insecurity, corruption and deprives local communities of valuable income,” said the lobby. Save the Elephants said an average of 33,000 elephants were lost to poachers between 2010 and 2012.

“Without concerted international action to reduce the demand for ivory, measures to reduce the killing of elephants will fail,” said Save the Elephants’ founder Iain Douglas-Hamilton.

He added: “Although half a world away, China holds the key to the future of the African elephant.”

Dr Martin and Ms Vigne revealed that Angola provided a ready market for illegally sourced ivory. They said the country was Africa’s second largest illegal ivory retail market after Nigeria.

“The city of Lagos in Nigeria has more ivory items on sale. Stallholders are secretive and aware of the regulations but in Angola’s Luanda salesmen appeared unconcerned about getting caught selling illegal ivory,” says the interim report.

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Last month, Kenya lost its largest elephant, Satao, when poachers struck at Tsavo East National Park.

Satao was particularly appealing to poachers due to its unusually large tusks. They were more than two metres long.

At the same time, security bosses in Laikipia County are questioning the ability of a private ranch to protect wildlife following the killing of four rhinos last Wednesday.

The incident has brought to eight the number of white rhinos killed by poachers at the 58,000-acre Ol Jogi Conservancy in Laikipia North this year alone. The conservancy boasts of having the latest technology in wildlife conservation.

The security committee, chaired by County Commissioner Wilson Wanyanga has set up a task force to investigate the unending poaching in the region, particularly of rhinos at Ol Jogi.
Visit conservancies

The six-member task force is set to visit other conservancies and will give its report in two weeks.

“We now doubt the capacity of the conservancy to protect wildlife, especially rhinos. It is worth noting that this incident happened after KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) rangers were withdrawn,” said the county commissioner.