Monday, November 25, 2013

Crushing illegal ivory to send a message to poachers

I heard about this on NPR a couple of weeks ago.

Here is a link to the story at the WSJ.

Although we never directly studied trade in endangered species or associated products, there are a lot of topics that are relevant to our course here, including supply and demand, command-and-control vs. incentives and valuation. What do you think? Will destroying the ivory work as intended?


Blair Brannon said...

I dont think this is the most effective manner to address this problem. First, they collected and waited 25 years to send this message out when something could have been done much earlier. I think this is similar to the developing countries and deforestation because thats their only means to make some fast cash since they have a higher discount rate and will consume all they can because they have to. Once a standard is set to only obtain ivory from elephants that have died of natural causes, like they mentioned, would be better. The elephants do have a pretty good existence value, everyone loves elephants, so this should also help to enforce. Maybe give a subsidy to be involved in wildlife protection or the people setting/enforcing up protected areas. Combined, I think the illegal trade can be reduced.

Zachary Smith said...

I too do not think this is the most effective means to end ivory poaching. As Blair said, why wait 25 years to send the message that this is unacceptable? Although it isn't very probable, a mobile crushing machine that would be able to crush the ivory right when we caught the perpetrator would send a much more direct message. Just like if you are caught with an drug paraphernalia by the police, the contraband is destroyed in front of the offended, sending a clear message that this is unacceptable. Another disheartening fact I picked up on was that the poaching has increased. While this strategy did initially decrease poaching, the recent increases in poaching means that its effectiveness is wearing off and new strategies must be implemented to help decrease these trends. With the depleted resources available to us, a highly controlled ivory trade is off the table eliminating one potential conservation strategy. With the poor economic conditions in these developing nations, local people are left with little options in order to make a living. These locals are stuck between a rock an a hard place. Native people are forced to choose between surviving today and environmental conservation for future generations. If you're unable to survive to see the future, it vastly reduced the priority of conservation. The high discount rate of local people coupled with corrupt governments with little resources available to allocate towards increasing wildlife protection casts a grim light on the future of these majestic animals. Despite the current bleak outlook, I still like to hold out faith that we can come up with solutions to eliminate poaching and save these beautiful creatures.