Ivory Trade: Driving Elephants and Rhinos to Extinction

Prince William made the news this week as he made public appearances regarding wildlife conservation, especially among rhinos and elephants.  He spoke in Hanoi, Vietnam about how several species are on the brink of extinction and that to save these animals we need to end poaching and illegal ivory and rhinoceros horn trade.

Currently it is still legal in the UK to trade antique ivory that was carved before 1947.  William would like to follow the likes of Canada and China and institute a total ban on ivory and rhinoceros horn.  The idea here is that it would eliminate the market entirely.

Rhinos and elephants are the most affected by poachers.  Currently there are less than 750,000 elephants walking the earth.  It is estimated that in 16th century there were 26 million elephants.  The problem continues today, Asian elephant numbers have dropped by at least 50% over the last three generations.  At the peak of the ivory trade it was estimated the over 250 elephants were killed per day for their ivory.  

Many species of rhinoceros have been hunted to extinction and the entire species is considered critically endangered.  The largest type of rhinoceros, the white rhino was nearly extinct 100 year ago. There were fewer than 50 white rhinos in the world, but due to conservation efforts and awareness the species was effectively brought back from the dead and populations have grown to over 20,000.   Both the Javan rhino and western black rhino were declared extinct in 2011. The population is still declining overall with a 30% decline in the African variety over seven years.

Humans have taken these animals for granted for centuries, and if we don’t do something to reverse the damage we have done, rhinos and elephants may only exist in history books.

The illegal trade of ivory and rhino horns have contributed greatly to the rapid decline in numbers for both animals. In Asian markets, one kilogram of ivory is worth between $1,000 and $1,500.  Ivory is sold as artifacts and is often used in some health supplements. It is believed it can “increase vitality.”

There have been some attempts to curb the demand for ivory.  One technique is dying the horns or tusks of animals with harmless ink that devalues the ivory for trade.  There are strict penalties on poaching, but some African such as Kenya is accused of acquitting poachers or merely fining them for breaking international law and killing protected animals.  So there is still a long way to go. If you want to know more visit the World Wildlife Fund works with Crime Initiative to eliminate poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn and ivory.  They also work to expand protected areas and relocate animals to safer areas.  They also encourage symbiotic relationships with animals,as wildlife-based tourism is very beneficial to local economies.  By donating to this organisation you can play a role in reversing the damage we’ve done to these animals and save them for generations to come.  

The WWF website gives you the ability to adopt an elephant or rhino.  This can fund local communities to protect these animals and their habitats.

Adopt an Elephant

Adopt a Rhino


World Wildlife Fund

National Geographic








Drew Mackin