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Close All Ivory Markets to Save Elephants: Researchers

Aug 08, 2014 07:38 AM EDT

A new study states that all ivory stockpiles must be destroyed and all ivory trade markets closed to save elephants.

According to the paper by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), corruption and organized crime, along with lack of enforcement, fuels ivory trade. The paper also states that illegal ivory trade will exist as long as there is a market for legal ivory.

Populations of both African and Asian elephants are declining due to poaching. The US Fish and Wildlife Service said that about 30,000 elephants are killed each year for their prized tusks.

Recently, New Jersey became the first US state to act against the cruel ivory trade. The state has given more teeth to the anti-poaching laws and has prohibited both the import and in-state sale of ivory and rhino horns.

Authors of the paper say that corruption undermines all efforts made by government agencies to curb illegal ivory trade.

"If we are to conserve remaining wild populations of elephants, we must close all markets because, under current levels of corruption, they cannot be controlled in a way that does not provide opportunities for illegal ivory being laundered into legal markets," said the paper's author, Elizabeth Bennett, WCS Vice President for Species Conservation.

Also, ivory stockpiles across the world are the hidden lifeline to the illegal ivory trade, which is why they must be destroyed.

For the study, the researchers looked at the corruption index of 177 countries. The team found that 12 countries in Africa that have elephants are in the bottom 40 percent of the index.

The study also argues against the idea that legal ivory trade will help save elephants and help raise money for elephant conservation programs.

"In the long term, the only sustainable solution is for the demand for ivory - the ultimate driver of the system - to be reduced. Until that happens, if elephants are to survive, we need to close existing legal markets," Bennett said in a news release.

The study was published in the journal Conservation Biology.

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