For thousands of years,
people have valued elephant tusks, both outright as a
signs of status and wealth, and even more commonly in
the form of carved statuettes, jewelry and ornaments.
Admittedly, ivory is a truly beautiful substance, and in
the hands of a skilled artist it can be turned into
genuinely lovely works of art.
photo M. Noonan
However, this is a terrible situation from the
elephant’s point of view. As long as the art world is
populated by collectors who are willing to pay handsome
prices for objects made of ivory, there will be people
willing to shoot elephants to obtain their tusks. In
fact, the deliberate killing by people for this purpose
has probably been the number one cause of death in this
species. In the past 100 years, it is estimated that
more than 100,000 Asian Elephants have been killed
solely for their ivory.
Deplorably, the importation and sale of ivory is still
common in many Asian and European nations today. And
even in countries that strictly ban it (like the US and
UK), a black market exists where carved ivory is
available for those who simply cannot resist its
photo M. Noonan
want to conserve elephants, we simply have to eliminate
the ivory trade. As long as there is a demand for
ivory, there will be poachers and black marketers who
will feed that demand. However, if we could convince
customers to stop buying ivory, then poachers would stop
killing elephants to obtain their ivory. We feel
certain that if people everywhere came to understand
that ivory products come from dead elephants, and that
the purchase of ivory products causes the killing of
elephants, then the deaths would stop.
something that should change, and this is something that
of us who care about the conservation of elephants
should work to influence cultural attitudes about the
ivory trade. We should do this politely and we should
do this patiently. But we should never give up.
is not something that should be desired as a thing of
beauty. Carved ivory should not be valued or displayed
as works of art. Nearly all ivory products are derived
from elephants that were specifically killed so that
their tusks could be carved. We should not see it as a
thing of beauty.