African elephants are likely to be endangered and are highly threatened with extinction in the future. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that there are about 415,000 African elephants in the wild today, up from three to five million in the 19th century. In the 1980s, African elephant populations declined by nearly 50%. Since surveillance began some 30 years ago, 2011 was the worst year since records began, with the largest amount of illegal ivory seized in the world. It is estimated that every year, 35,000 elephants are illegally killed for their ivory. The Wildlife Conservation Society`s 96 Elephants campaign highlights the unfortunate fact that 96 elephants are killed every day in Africa, or one elephant every 15 minutes. (Asian elephants are still threatened by poaching, but not all Asian elephants have tusks.) Of course, not all countries have kings – let alone kings who are well regarded by their citizens. But the National Geographic Society`s GlobeScan survey ranked the most reliable sources of information among ivory buyers. The first three are environmental non-profit organizations, scientists or academics, as well as family members or friends. In 2016, WWF partnered with a psychosocial researcher to create a guide to understanding and undermining the cultural and social roots of consumers` ivory cravings.
In 2017, WWF partnered with wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC and consumer research firm GlobeScan to study the ivory consumption patterns of more than 2,000 people in 15 Chinese cities. A number of natural and synthetic materials have been used to replicate ivory, especially in recent centuries as ivory has become rarer and more expensive. Teeth, bones and antlers from other animals, vegetable ivory from palm nuts and plastics have all been used as substitutes. Making China`s ban a turning point in the elephant poaching crisis means closing remaining markets in Asia and eradicating consumer demand, says Cheryl Lo, head of wildlife crime at WWF-Hong Kong. As WWF continues to work with other governments in the region to ban the sale of ivory, they are also intensely focusing on the root of the problem: demand. One. Banning the sale of mammoth ivory at the state level is an important part of cracking down on illegal sales of elephant ivory, as the ability to mix mammoth and elephant ivory along the retail chain and at the point of sale is one of the ways elephant ivory is smuggled into the United States and sold in stores in mammoth or bone form. In fact, a recent online investigation into ivory sales in Hawaii documented several examples of this practice to avoid detection by authorities.
While some trained ivory experts can distinguish mammoth from elephant ivory by conducting invasive DNA testing and occasionally analyzing the various “scream” patterns of ivory, it is impractical for state law enforcement officials to make extensive use of these techniques, and vine patterns are not always easily detectable once the ivory has been carved. This centralized database contains tens of thousands of records of ivory seizures and law enforcement operations in more than 100 countries, allowing us to monitor and analyze complex trade flows and changing market dynamics with unparalleled accuracy. African elephant ivory has entered the Thai Asian elephant ivory market.  All countries must act together, with each country having a role to play in the fight against elephant poaching. This includes addressing the current challenges of poor governance, corruption and lack of resources in institutions to enforce wildlife regulations. It will also be crucial to build capacity and work with communities to enable locally led sustainable conservation efforts. Last but not least, we need to strengthen control over all ivory markets and reduce demand for ivory in consumer countries. Not surprisingly, Xu Ling of WWF-China says that in addition to shutting down the country`s legal ivory market, the illegal ivory trade also appears to be declining since the ban went into effect.
“We are constantly monitoring the market and have noticed that the volume and prices of ivory products have decreased,” she says. Despite the ban on international trade, ivory poaching has more than doubled since 2007. Zimbabwe had adopted a “sustainable” wildlife use policy, which was considered by some governments and WWF as a model for future conservation. Conservationists and biologists have hailed Zimbabwe`s Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) as a model for strengthening community in conservation.  Failure to prevent CITES listing in Appendix One has dealt a severe blow to this movement. Zimbabwe may have made the careers of some biologists, but it has not been honest with its claims. The government argued that the ivory trade would fund conservation efforts, but the revenues were instead returned to the central treasury.  The elephant census has been accused of counting elephants crossing Botswana`s border twice by building artificial waterholes. The ivory trade was also completely out of control within its borders, as the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) was involved in poaching in Gonarezhou National Park and other areas.  Even more sinister was the alleged killing of a number of whistleblowers, including a Captain Nleya, who claimed that the ZNA was involved in rhino and elephant poaching in Mozambique. Nleya was found hanged in her barracks near Hwange National Park. The death was reported as suicide by the military, but declared murder by a judge.
Nleya`s widow was then reportedly threatened by anonymous phone calls.     The difficulty is that countries that are often involved in the ivory trade also rank high in corruption. Ivory is of great value, while wildlife law enforcement officials are often underfunded and poorly paid. While the historical legacy of the ivory trade affects many parts of the world, there are inherent dangers associated with diluting the focus on ivory in regions that are not currently the source of poaching or trade in ivory by the African elephant. Inappropriate attention not only diverts already scarce resources from other local conservation problems, but also diverts global attention from the real drivers of elephant poaching. Smugglers use the legal trade to launder their illegal goods, which are then presented to buyers as legitimate products. And most African countries lack the resources to fight poachers. That`s why China`s burgeoning middle class began to see elephant ivory as a good place to park money a decade ago, Vertefeuille says. “Ivory never deteriorates, does it? So it`s something you can invest in for the long term, something that can be seen as a smart way to spend your money, and something you can brag about as well,” she explains.
It`s a collector`s mentality, like high-end art. Other flaws in this “control system” were discovered by the EIA when they gained secret access and filmed ivory carvings operated by Hong Kong traders, including Poon, in the United Arab Emirates. They also collected official trade statistics, air waybills and other evidence from the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Hong Kong. Statistics from the UAE showed that in 1987/88 the UAE alone imported more than 200 tonnes of raw and simply prepared ivory. Almost half of them were from Tanzania, where they had a total ban on ivory. It was pointed out that ivory traders who have been awarded CITES amnesties have networks around the system.   Ivory has been traded by humans in Africa and Asia for hundreds of years, resulting in restrictions and bans. Ivory was used to make piano keys and other decorative objects because of the white color it presents in the processing, but the piano industry abandoned ivory as a key trim material in the 1980s in favor of other materials such as plastic. According to the U.S. government, Alaska Natives (including Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts) are allowed to harvest walruses for a living as long as the harvest is not wasteful.  Indigenous people are allowed to sell hunted walrus ivory to non-natives as long as it is reported to a representative of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, labeled and processed into a kind of handicrafts.  Indigenous people can also sell ivory found within 0.25 miles (0.40 km) of the ocean — known as beach ivory — to non-natives if the ivory has been labeled and processed in some way.
Petrified ivory is not regulated and can be sold without registration, marking or production in any way.  In Greenland, it was purchased before 1897 by the Royal Greenland Department of Commerce exclusively for domestic sale. After this period, walrus ivory was exported.  A new international survey shows what is really driving demand in the ivory market. There is growing evidence that legal supply fuels demand and responds to illicit trade. Many conservation organizations, including FFI, are therefore calling for the closure of domestic markets. This will make the law clearer and enforcement easier, while making it easier to reduce consumer demand. Only about 415,000 African elephants live in the wild today, and poachers kill at least 20,000 each year.
The illegal ivory trade has links to organized crime syndicates that threaten local communities and encourage corruption.