Trade bans no lease on life for elephants

FREE trade in ivory may not be environment-friendly, but neither is a ban, according to a research paper published by economist Timothy Swanson in Economic Policy. He argues that though bans may effectively protect oceanic species, they do not work in the case of elephants.

Swanson explains this is because the survival of large land species, such as elephants, depends on the willingness of humans to preserve their habitat, which, in turn, depends on economic returns accruing from them.

While poachers with high-powered weapons keep the lucrative ivory trade flourishing, governments of the poorest African states do not find it profitable to invest in elephant protection.

In the 1980s, Tanzania, Zambia, Zaire and Sudan each spent less than $20 per square kilometre on park management every year and lost as many as 750,000 elephants. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, spent $194 per square kilometre in the same period, and the effort can be seen in the country's elephant population, which rose by 20,000.