BOOKS: Ivory Markets of Europe
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2006:
Ivory Markets of Europe:
A survey in France, Germany, Italy, Spain & the U.K.
by Esmond Martin & Daniel Stiles
Save the Elephants (P.O. Box 54667, 00200
Nairobi, Kenya), 2005. 104 pages, paperback.
No price listed.
Ivory Markets of Europe is the fourth and
perhaps most startling in a series of regional
reports on the elephant tusk ivory trade produced
by geographer Esmond Martin and anthropologist
Daniel Stiles since 2000.
Martin and Stiles began by looking at Africa, where most ivory originates.
They found that ivory artifacts are still
readily available at leading tourist
destinations, despite the 1989 ivory trade
moratorium imposed by the United Nations
Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species. The source of most of the ivory still
available in Africa appears to be elephant
Next Martin and Stiles investigated the
ivory markets of southern and eastern Asia,
where the use and exchange of ivory artifacts is
reputedly most entrenched. Again they found much
ivory for sale, but they also found evidence
that demand is declining, with the numbers of
ivory artisans and quality of their work falling
off parallel to the ivory supply. Despite
ongoing ivory poaching, Martin and Stiles found,
the ivory trade moratorium appears to be
The ecologically sensitized elephant
conservation donors of western Europe might
believe that their home nations have relatively
small roles in contemporary ivory trafficking.
This is generally true, but Martin and
Stiles have established that “Germany greatly
exceeds China, Japan, Cameroon, and
Nigeria–all viewed as important ivory
markets–in market scale and in number of ivory
The U.K. also exeeds all but China of
these countries in market scale, and it greatly
surpasses China in number of retail outlets that
“The primary difference between them,”
Martin and Stiles continue, “is that the
greatest proportion of the European ivory is
pre-1989 in manufacture, and the ivory in China,
Cameroon, and Nigeria is of recent date, most
of it from poached elephants.”
Historically, Europe was the primary
destination for African elephant ivory.
Relatively little new ivory is entering Europe,
but the residue of centuries of past acquisition
now gluts European antique and curio shops.
Differences in taste in ivory artifacts,
the difficulty of reworking finished items to
suit the Asian market, and the relatively high
value of the euro compared to most Asian
currencies probably explain why the European
surplus is not moving east, in economic
competition with poached ivory.
Simply put, filling the remaining Asian
demand with poached ivory is cheaper than
developing a reworked ivory trade.
As Martin and Stiles indicate that ivory
demand is falling almost everywhere, the
longterm prospects for redeveloping an
international ivory industry might seem poor.
Yet South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and
Zimbabwe continue to stockpile ivory in hopes of
reaping windfall profits when and if they can
break the moratorium. Anticipation of money to
be made selling ivory at some point in the near
future appears to be involved in the South
African National Park Service scheme to kill half
of the elephants in Kruger National Park, as
described in the December 2005 edition of ANIMAL
Though windfall profits might never
develop, there is the possibility that
oversupply could drive the price of ivory down
enough to create new demand among nouveau riché
residents of some nations where until now, only
the rich could afford it. Mass consumption of
ivory might in turn re-stimulate poaching.