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Growing demand for ivory puts elephant at risk

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New Delhi, July 30: The greed for ivory in Asia has led to a massive surge in the slaughter of elephants in the past year. The global price of ivory increased tenfold since its 1989 trade ban by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), new research has found.

There are still some thriving but unregulated domestic ivory markets in a number of countries, which fuel an illegal international trade. Poaching to meet growing demand from affluent Asian countries is driving up the rate of poaching.

Growing demand for ivory puts elephant at risk

Higher ivory market prices lead to higher poaching incentives, and therefore greater numbers of elephants being killed.

The University of Bristol Veterinary School study, published in Biological Conservation on July 25 is the first to analyse trends in global ivory market values since the ban came into effect.

Since the ban, ivory has become an increasingly valuable commodity, with Asian markets having the highest prices and Africa the lowest.

From the data, the researchers were able to determine that the global average price of ivory increased tenfold (~1,019 per cent) between 1989 and 2014 and appears to be slowly decreasing since.

Save an elephant, save the Earth

Factors that influence activity include where in the world the ivory was sold; whether the ivory had been carved or worked in any way; the legality of the sale; and finally, the total volume of ivory that was estimated to have been traded that year.

Monique Sosnowski, lead author who carried out the research at the Bristol Veterinary School as part of her MSc in Global Wildlife Health and Conservation, said: "With poachers killing an estimated 100 elephants of the remaining 3,50,000 each day, we believe our findings are significant to global wildlife conservation policy-making.

"Until now, very little has been known about global ivory prices since the international ban in 1989. We hope that a greater understanding of the factors that drive the price of ivory will lead to better informed policy interventions that lead to a more secure future for the long-term survival of elephants and other animals that suffer due to the ivory trade."

Why do elephants have ivory tusks?

Elephant tusks evolved from teeth, giving the species an evolutionary advantage. They serve a variety of purposes: digging, lifting objects, gathering food, stripping bark from trees to eat, and defense. The tusks also protect the trunk another valuable tool for drinking, breathing, and eating, among other uses.

Why is taking ivory tusks from elephants illegal?

Behind every piece of ivory whether it be a full tusk or carved trinket is a dead elephant. Poachers kill about 20,000 elephants every single year for their tusks, which are then traded illegally in the international market to eventually end up as ivory trinkets. This trade is mostly driven by demand for ivory in parts of Asia, according to World Wildlife Fund.

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