Assessing the True Impacts and Drivers of the Ivory Trade
The Economics of the Chinese Ivory Trade Working Group will bring together a consortium of influential experts to assess the true economic impacts of the ivory trade in China, and its impacts on human livelihoods in China and Africa, and provide policy recommendations to the Chinese government.
To address these questions, the Working Group will focus on understanding the economics of different ivory trade policy options, how Chinese policies could be modified to ensure the recovery and stability of African elephant populations, improve security environments around critical elephant habitat with positive implications for local livelihoods, and support favorable China–Africa relations.
The Working Group will analyze the economics of the ivory trade system in China, its drivers, related policies and dynamics, including:
- Is the ivory market in China a demand- or supply-side driven market?
- What are the implications for the economics of regulation if the ivory market is a demand- or supply-side driven market?
- What are the current elements of the legal trade that facilitate the illegal trade in ivory? What loopholes could be closed and what are the wider economic implications of this?
- One assumption to be tested is: should all domestic trade in ivory be banned, the value of ivory would collapse, resulting in significantly reduced levels of illegal killing of elephants across much of Africa.
Understanding the response of Chinese consumers to a permanent ban on the domestic ivory trade, or a change in the ease of access to illegal ivory is key to making policy recommendations on the continued existence of a legal ivory trade.
The Working Group will also assess the development impact of Chinese ivory trade policies in China and African elephant range States, including:
- What are the economic and livelihood implications if China decides to ban the ivory trade and potential revenue streams for pro-trade range States? Impacts could include loss in value for stockpiled ivory, livelihood implications for communities involved in community-based natural resource management systems, as well as enterprises involved in other parts of the legal trade chain.
The Wildlife Conservation Society will field-test the effects of policy changes on elephant populations in Africa and the demand for ivory in China through our extensive elephant monitoring program in Africa and our China ivory demand reduction program.
The timing of the Working Group’s project will allow the findings to inform China’s 2016 National Congress Conference, which is a particularly important opportunity because it will guide Chinese policies at the next Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) in October 2016. COP 17 is a vital arena for international policy development, and so using this window of opportunity will enable this SNAPP-supported work to have real impact on the issue of the illegal ivory trade globally.
Meet the Team