Topic Area: Ivory trade and Elephant Preservation
Geographic Area: Africa, especially Botswana
Title: Economic Influences on the African Elephant Population
Focal Question: What are the effects of the CITES ivory trade ban on the African elephant? What are the implications for the biodiversity and the elephant population of the region?
Barnes, J. I. 1996. "Changes in the economic use value of elephant in Botswana: the effect of international trade prohibition." Ecological Economics 18 (3): 215-230.
Khanna, J. and J. Harford. 1996. "The ivory trade ban: Is it effective?" Ecological Economics 19 (2): 147-156.
Loomis, J. B. and D. S. White. 1996. "Economic benefits of rare and endangered species: summary and meta-analysis." Ecological Economics 18 (3): 197-206.
Norton-Griffiths, M. and C. Southey. 1995. "The Opportunity costs of biodiversity conservation in Kenya." Ecological Economics 12 (2): 125-140.
Swanson, T. M. and E. B. Barbier, ed. . Economics for the Wilds: Wildlife, Diversity, and Development. (Covelo, CA: Island Press, 1992).
Reviewer: Amy Bennett, Colby College '97

This study focuses on the primary problem today of the conservation of individual species and biodiversity. This is because the vast majority of world's remaining in situ habitats are in the developing world. There is a need to conserve not only a given stock of genetic capital (through zoos, crowded parks, reserves and other ex situ forms of conservation), but also the evolutionary process itself. This means that natural land is to be preserved from the encroachment of livestock, desertification and development. This Catch 22 makes preservation difficult because these nations need to use their resources for economic development and poverty alleviation. They need to "Maximize revenues from the consumptive use of this resource while at the same time maintain a stable population to maximize the non consumptive use and to protect the ecosystem."

I will focus on the African elephant as a case study for the problems facing the developing world of preservation and trade.

The African elephant (Loxodonta africana), has a current estimated population of 600,000 individuals down from about 1.2 million in 1979. One of the difficulties facing the elephant preservation is the over exploitation of the species for their ivory and skin. This occurs because elephants are an open access resource (absence of well-defined property rights) and the states in which they inhabit lack enforcement and monitoring. Elephants have been illegally harvested throughout all attempts of control. This is because one elephant can yield $3,600 for the middleman, at a time when the average worker's wage is no more than $1,000 a year. This illegal harvesting, which is also known as poaching, is the reason for the decimation of the population by almost half between the years of 1979-1989. Studies projected that with that rate of harvesting there is a possibility of extinction by 2010. Similar population trends can be seen in other species, such as the black rhino which has declined by 95 percent since 1970.

This economic value of the elephant and the decline of the populations led to it being placed on Appendix II (regulates commercial trade the only restriction being exporting countries determination of what is or is not detrimental to the species) of the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES began in 1973 ) in 1978.

In June of 1989 the United States and many European nations, imposed a moratorium on ivory imports to save the remaining populations. The African elephant was added to Appendix I (which bans trade in the products of these species, the species must be threatened by extinction) that October. Many African nations such as: Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi and South Africa took reservations and many formed the South African Center for Ivory Marketing (SACIM), (which is yet to function because of the lack of buyers).

In the first few years the upgrading was viewed as a success by western nations and conservation groups. The ban on ivory changed the economic environment for elephants. It helped the elephant trade collapse, which led to the decline of the average annual number of elephants killed by poaching from 3,500 elephants per year in Kenya in the early 1980s, to about 50 in 1993. The ivory market collapsed, in March 1993, decreasing the black market price from $125 to $5 per pound. And the value of ivory exports declined over the past ten years: in Kenya 3.62 mil to 0.46 mil; Sudan 2.25 mil to 1.29 mil; Tanzan 2.34 mil to 1.29 mil; Uganda 1.7 mil to 0.21 mil; Zaire 13.2 mil to 0.89 mil. The ban slowed the population decline in many of the range states.

Several difficulties arose due to this collapse. The loss of ivory revenues in Zimbabwe led to a decrease in enforcement which increased illegal deaths from 10 to 100 in one year. In many countries, five years after the ban poaching climbed to pre-ban levels (it continues due to speculation that legal trade will resume). Many signed nations suffered caused by financial strain from required enforcement. Legal trade hid illegal trade and ivory cartels allowed countries to sell confiscated ivory from poachers.

In Botswana, the ban has jeopardized future elephant populations, which currently stand at between 54,700 and 60, 935 individuals (poaching levels are historically low). Before July 1989 the nation had well-developed markets for consumptive elephant products and stable populations. When trade was banned the country lost about half of potential economic use values, it lost 53 percent of direct use values. Before the ban 44 percent of potential use was of non-consumptive use, while after the ban 70 percent was. These values are not sufficient enough to counteract the opportunity costs or increase investment in elephant preservation. The same was found in Kenya. Of the use values ivory made up only 42 percent (28 percent was raw ivory), while 58 percent of the use value relates to other products. The ban has made tourism into the only way use value of elephants has been maintained. The loss of use value of the products may lead to much land conversion into livestock ranges in the next 15 years unless local communities can realize high elephant use values. The ban along with empowerment of community property rights to manage and directly benefit from their wildlife, has led to a 25 percent increase in the population. The increase in population has led to added stress on the human elephant interaction. This ban ended up being retrogressive for Botswana as well as for other countries with growing populations.

As seen above, the trade ban had varying effects depending on the state. There are three types of states, producer, entrepot, and consumer. All have different incentives to comply with the ban. Producer states realize too much economic gain for the government to intervene and put pressures on poachers. Entrepot states are the middlemen who store large quantities of ivory until conservation pressures are released. These two states respond to the demands of the consumer states. Producing countries with stable or growing populations and good management and enforcement suffered from the ban (after the ban an increase in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia occurred and population increased beyond its carrying capacity). In support of the ban, some countries with declining populations use the ban as a substitute for effective law enforcement at the national level and are covering up decades of mismanagement and corruption. This can be seen by a population decrease of 74 percent between 1979 and 1989 in nations voting for the ban and 9 percent in those against it.

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