3 min read

What Should We Do With These Massive Stockpiles Of Horn And Ivory?

<p>John Downer, WWF</p>

In light of the global demise of elephants and rhinos, many countries have made a symbolic gesture of commitment by destroying their ivory stockpiles. China, the United States, Kenya, France, the Philippines, Gabon and Hong Kong have all taken part. While some see this as a celebratory gesture, it is contested by others. The price tag for a kilo of ivory on the black market is worth over $1800 USD, which makes your average elephant worth about $18,000. A kilo of rhino horn can fetch $65,000 USD, making the average rhino worth $130,000.

Imagine how much one country's stockpile may be worth. When the U.S. destroyed it's six-ton stockpile, it was like destroying approximately $9,800,000 USD. Could that money have been sold to China, raising money for conservation? Or would it have simply fueled demand, bringing a quicker end to our imperiled elephants? There are arguments on both sides.

Ivory destroyed by a steel rock crusher in Denver, Colorado. (Photo: Alex Hofford)

Reasons to destroy:

  • Ivory and horn left intact has the good chance of finding its way back onto the market, perpetuating the demand and adding to the poaching.
  • It sends a powerful statement to the world that it is NOT a commodity. There is no worth.
  • It also sends the message that a country will not tolerate the trade.
  • Storing ivory and horn is a security burden to most countries.
It's no secret South Africa is pushing for legal trade in rhino horn. Their current stockpile stands at over 18 tons. photo" (Photo: AFP)

Reasons to keep:

Saving horns and ivory allows records to be kept on genetics, both for historical purposes as well as for DNA evidence used in court cases.

  • If legalization occurs, it can be sold to raise money for conservation.
  • It can be used to train wildlife sniffer dogs in airports to help control trafficking.
  • In general, destruction of ivory will make it more scarce, spiking the demand

What do you think? Take the poll here.