Elephants In The Dust


Today, most ivory is obtained illegally from Africa and manu- factured and sold in Asia. Ivory is legal to work and sell in this region, with certain restrictions. Commercial ivory is illegal in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, and these countries have small ivory markets, though illegal activity exists (Menon et al. 1998; Martin and Stiles 2002). From the 1970s to the mid 1990s, the majority of the world’s worked ivory was aimed at export, except in Japan, where lo- cal buyers predominated. The largest local markets at the time of the 1989 CITES trade ban were found in Hong Kong, Ja- pan, Thailand and Taiwan. Ivory manufacturing had decreased significantly in China and Hong Kong. In 1985 there were a combined total of 2,000 to 2,500 ivory craftsmen in China and Hong Kong, while in 2002 the number was probably less than 200, not counting those who worked mammoth ivory. China’s ivory factories and workshops went from at least 20 large ones to about 10 smaller ones in the same time period. These indica- tors suggest a clear decline in market demand for ivory manu- factured in China immediately following the CITES trade ban, which was caused mainly by the drop in demand fromWestern export markets and buyers. Some evidence points to a rise in domestic ivory market activity in China beginning around 1996. This view is supported by the rise in ivory seizures that have occurred there since 1997, the significant increase in the number of ivory retail outlets and items displayed for sale between 2002 and 2011 in Guangzhou, and the increase in the number of registered ivory factories from 20 in 2002 to 36 by the end of 2011 (Milliken et al. 2002, 2007, 2012; Martin and Stiles 2003; Martin and Vigne 2011b; Gabriel et al. 2012). Additionally, information from Hong Kong indicates that ivory market scale has remained stable since 1990, supporting the view that elephant ivory activity there has dropped, except for the rapid growth in mammoth ivory use (Martin and Stiles 2003; Martin and Martin 2011). Ivory carv- ing in Taiwan has also dwindled, where new ivory is now being imported from mainland China (Martin and Stiles 2003). While ivory market activity appears to be on the rise in China, it has been more variable in other parts of Asia, such as in Japan, Thailand, Viet Nam and Myanmar (Vigne and Martin 2010; Stiles 2009; Stiles 2008; Shepherd and Nijman 2008),

China has a thriving counterfeit antique ivory market, which facilitates exporting to Western countries.

Although there are many gaps in knowledge about recent ivory activity in South and South East Asia since the year 2001 (Martin and Stiles 2002), data from the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) shows a significant increase in the number of large-scale shipments to Asia. Low-level illegal ivory market activity carries on in countries in South and South East Asia (Martin and Stiles 2002; Nijman and Shepherd 2012; Martin et al. 2011). China, Thailand and Viet Nam have been identified as significant problem countries in illegal ivory activities and the trade of other wildlife products (Milliken et al. 2012; Martin and Vigne 2011b; Stiles 2008, 2009). Worked ivory markets in Asia were historically aimed mainly at exports and foreign visitors. However, due to regional eco- nomic development, Asians have themselves have become sig- nificant consumers of worked ivory.


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