Despite a 1990 global treaty illegalizing the sale of elephant tusks, religious faiths across Asia value ivory and are willing to pay for it. National Geographic’s two-year investigation revealed that governments are often complicit in the purchasing and processing of ivory. The magazine also found that ivory traffickers are operating with impunity, thwarting poorly written international laws and ineffective organizations designed to clamp down on the illegal trade.
Even in countries where corruption is widespread, ivory that is seized by the authorities often disappears. In 2006, a government storeroom in Thailand, like this one in Bangkok, was raided, and the tusks were replaced with plastic replicas. Meanwhile, in 2011, more elephants were poached than in any year since a global ban on ivory trading was passed in 1989. They were killed for their tusks and tusks alone.
In China, demand has been met with the construction of major factories to process and produce religious icons. Hari Sreenivasan talks to National Geographic reporter Bryan Christy.
A 7-minute video from PBS NewsHour entitled “Demand for Illegal Ivory Explodes in Asia, Where Industry Expands Despite Ban,” can be seen at this link.