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Addressing the Ivory Surplus

The 1989 ivory trade ban has led to government stockpiles of ivory (from seizures/arrests and herd culling), and no legal means of selling the stuff. In recent years, “countries considered to have well-managed stocks of elephants and reliable systems for tracking tusks have three times been allowed to sell consignments from government stockpiles.” Recent requests for permission to sell ivory stockpiles from Tanzania and Zambia, however, were denied by the U.N.’s?Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Some environmentalists applauded the decision, on the grounds that any ivory sales encourage elephant poaching (the data on this is mixed), while others pointed out that occasional legal sales are not the biggest problem facing elephants today. “While the issue of whether sales should be allowed to proceed or not has dominated much of the discussions here… the key driving force behind the ongoing elephant poaching is the continued existence of illegal domestic ivory markets across parts of Africa and Asia,” said one expert. Meanwhile, Foreign Policy‘s Joshua Keating wonders if the ivory decision may have been politically motivated. Do any Freakonomics readers have a novel way of eliminating government ivory stockpiles without encouraging poaching? (HT: Eric M. Jones)[%comments]