stripping trees, moving objects, fighting
and display. Humans have other uses for tusks – or
such as jewellery, piano keys and
ivory has been valued for centuries,
large-scale killing of elephants for ivory did not begin until about 1900. By the 1970s
poaching became a serious problem.
Between 1979 and 1992, the numbers of elephants
plunged from 1.3 million to about 600,000.
Elephants were in
danger. Those protecting the elephants chose a simple solution:
ban the sale of ivory, and the
poachers will find it difficult to
make a living.
The ban on ivory sales worked. Elephant
populations grew fast in southern Africa. But they also began
damage crops and
This created a problem for those protecting the
wildlife. Angry villagers were demanding that elephants should be
taken away from areas near humans – even killed. One solution
was to let local people have control of the way the elephants were
managed. But how could you make villagers want
to look after the
So the authorities began to allow the sale of
ivory as a way for the villagers
to raise money. This gave them an
interest in managing the elephants.
It seemed to make sense. If elephants
longer endangered in southern Africa, shouldn’t African
be allowed to sell ivory to fund this sort of
In 1998 the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species (CITES)
lifted the ban on all trade in ivory.
Money from the sale of African ivory is being used to help people
live alongside the elephant.
John Newby of the World Wide Fund for Nature says
that preservation alone is not enough. ‘It isn’t creating the
incentives needed by ordinary Africans to see elephants as a
valuable resource and not just a
pest,’ says Newby.
So far it has been the tourist industry – airlines
and hotels – that has made money from African wildlife. Now that
local people can sell ivory again, the elephants are
bringing wealth to their human neighbours.