Accessibility links

Study Shows Massive Movement of Illegal Ivory from Africa Through Asia

A major new study The South and South East Asian Ivory Markets into the illegal ivory trade shows a massive movement of ivory from Africa to Asia. But, the ivory doesn't stay long in Asia.

The report says that the majority of raw elephant tusks that leave Africa are sold to China.

After it arrives in China, it is carved into jewelry and ornaments and then exported to neighboring countries. In Thailand alone, according to the report, over 88,000 pieces of so-called worked ivory are on sale. This is almost as many as are for sale in all of Africa.

Esmond Martin is co-author of the report, which was released by a group called Save the Elephants. At a news conference Friday in Nairobi, Mr. Martin said it is European tourists who are primarily responsible for the demand for ivory products.

"Who's buying all this ivory in Thailand? It's not the diplomats, it's not the U.N. people, it's tourists from Europe is number one by far," he said. "Specifically the French, Italians and Germans. Lesser so the Spanish. They are the main buyers of worked ivory."

Mr. Martin says Thailand, like many Asian countries, has regulations that specifically prohibit the sale of ivory products from Africa, but the government doesn't enforce them.

"There's domestic legislation which essentially doesn't allow an ivory trade except if it's made from domesticated elephants and of course most of it is not," he said.

Mr. Martin says it would also be helpful if African countries would tighten up on the illegal exports of raw ivory to Asia, but this is also hard to do. The report says much of the ivory that goes from Africa to Asia gets there in the luggage of diplomats.