Why We Should Not Sell Seized Ivory Stocks. Ever.


(Featured image: author Ofir Drori, founder of EAGLE (Eco Activists for Governance and Legal Enforcement), present at the largest ivory burn ever in Kenya on April 30th, 2016. Copyright EAGLE Network, all rights reserved)

Many people have asked me lately why Kenya didn’t sell the ivory it has confiscated to get money and use it for conservation, instead of destroying it as done in April 30th’s massive ivory burn. I believe these people were misguided by false arguments, spread by countries and individuals that represent greed and seek fast private gain, with not the slightest regard to actually saving elephants from extinction.

Here are just a few selected reasons (from a long, long list) for why we should kill any trade in ivory, and why greed can’t save us:

1.) YOU WILL SELL IT TO THE MOST NOTORIOUS KINGPINS. The traffickers we arrest are often recorded talking about their financial speculations, following CITES closely and being encouraged by each talk of legal sale of ivory stocks. For them this is a huge boost for their business, a hope for fast expansion of their operation. Of course the largest players, with the edge over any other competitor to buy legal ivory, are currently the heads of the criminal syndicates. They are hoping for your generous “loyalty” reward.

2.) LEGAL TRADE LAUNDERS ILLEGAL TRADE. Right now traffickers have easy lives. Once illegal ivory arrives in a country with legal ivory trading, it too becomes legal – it is laundered, and indistinguishable from stocks allowed to be sold. Any legal sale of ivory creates a catastrophic loophole making our daily fight far more difficult.

3.) ORGANIZED CRIME DOESN’T FOLLOW FREE MARKET RULES. The illegal ivory trade is run by criminal syndicates. Organized crime is also a form of monopoly. Monopoly, in any market, distorts demand-supply acquisition as the monopoly controls the price of the commodity and manipulates the market to its own advantage. “Flooding” the market with ivory to reduce ivory prices is therefore a ridiculous idea that will only strengthen the same monopoly, which will still control the prices as it wishes.

4.) LUXURY COMMODITIES DO NOT HAVE A FIXED DEMAND. The ivory traders actively invest money in expanding the demand for their product. This is very trivial and basic for any trade, but far more for luxury goods whose market does not have a consumption limit. In other words, pumping in money to the ivory trading monopolies will be used to actively expand demand, rather than “satisfy” it.

5.) THROWING MONEY AT A PROBLEM IS USUALLY NOT THE SOLUTION. It is naive, simplistic thinking to believe the challenge of saving elephants from extinction is a mere question of money. You can examine the biggest challenges of our times – from insecurity and terrorism to freedoms and global warming – to understand that dollars, unfortunately, do not work magic.

6.) DOLLARS SHOULD NOT GUIDE OUR MORAL DECISIONS. Being human means being guided by moral values. When we abolished slavery it was an economically disastrous decision, destroying economies that were built on the slave trade. Yet it was a moral decision. Imagine those that would argue that freeing some slaves would raise the demand for slaves. We didn’t calculate the fluctuations of slaves’ demand and supply, we were determined to abolish it, guided by our moral compass and not by our greed.


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