Elephant poaching for ivory: research paper topics

August 2014 has the distinction of being the date when more African elephants are being killed than are being born. Ivory demand in Asia and the Middle East has skyrocketed, raising rhinoceros and elephant poaching in Africa to new levels. Education, laws and enforcement are needed. Consider elephant hunting and the new ban on ivory as good research paper topics for your term paper.

China's insatiable demand for ivory funds terrorism in Africa and Middle East. (Credit: SCMP.com)

China’s insatiable demand for ivory funds terrorism in Africa and Middle East. (Credit: SCMP.com)

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that from 2010 to 2012, 100,000 African elephants were killed for their ivory. Estimates are that there are 400,000 elephants left in Africa, so if the killing continues, the African elephant will be extinct by the end of this decade.

Obama administration proposes ban on ivory sales

The White House has proposed a ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory. The National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking aims to strengthen enforcement, reduce demand for elephant poaching, place a total embargo on the new import of items containing elephant ivory, and prohibit ivory export except in the case of bona fide antiques (which are considered 100 years or older).

The ban is not only to protect elephants, but also a matter of national security. The vast amounts of money from the ivory trade are funneled to terrorist groups in Africa and the Middle East who use the money for weapons and to perpetrate war crimes, child labor and sex trafficking.

Demand for ivory

The biggest market for ivory is China, and surprisingly, the second largest is the United States. Lamenting the loss of elephants is British actress and wildlife campaigner Virginia McKenna who said in “Ivory Is a Little Piece of Misery on Your Mantelpiece,” by Susannah Butter in the Evening Standard, December 16, 2013: “Now, there’s so much demand from Far East countries for this symbol of wealth,” says McKenna. “The ivory is so expensive, if you have a carved piece on display it shows you’re doing well. Sometimes it’s carved in the shape of an elephant, which is more horrendous than anything. People want this little piece of misery… It’s not an achievement, you’ve caused death by having this on your mantelpiece.”

How can we stop ivory sales?

Another topic for your research paper could be to debate solutions to the problem. In the commentary “Can we pull elephants back from the brink?” posted on CNN.com November 21, 2014, Richard Leakey said: “I well recognize that Africans are directly involved in the poaching, but the market for ivory is global, and its extraordinary prices are too hard to resist. The problem, therefore, requires a solution that extends beyond Africa.”

Leakey suggests:

  • A total ban on international trade of ivory so that the value of ivory becomes so low that it has no value to poachers.
  • Convince people to stop buying ivory of any kind or any products that contain ivory. Everything made of ivory today can be made with alternative materials. If there is no market for ivory, the price will drop.
  • Nations around the world must ban the import and domestic sales of ivory, and the general public should support these bans.
  • Educate ivory buyers that elephants and rhinos are being viciously hacked to death just to get the tusks and horns. The sources of all that ivory is from live animals, not from animals already found dead, which is the lie told to buyers of ivory.

Can a limited trade in ivory be acceptable?

This is an interesting debate you can explore in your term paper. According to Elizabeth Bennett, vice president for species conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society, the answer is no. Bennett contends that a legal market in ivory would not work because of corruption “among government officials [in African countries] charged with implementing wildlife-related legislation,” reported Christina Russo in “Can Elephants Survive a Legal Ivory Trade? Debate Is Shifting Against It,” published on National Geographic, August 29, 2014.

Bennett also said that these corrupt activities include “officials demanding bribes for compliance … and accepting bribes to overlook illegal activities,” or “to switch or alter CITES or other permits along the trade chain so that, through fraudulent paperwork, an illegal item seems legal.”

For more information, check out Questia’s library on international trade. 

What are some other ways to protect elephants and discourage ivory trade?

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