The ivory trade is primarily driven by burgeoning demand in Asia, especially among China’s newly wealthy middle classes. Ivory is seen as a symbol of status and money. As wealth has grown in China so has the demand for ivory pieces which include an array of items from intricately carved statues to chopsticks and cell phone cases.
This demand has driven ivory prices to record highs and thus provided strong incentives to poachers and traffickers, who are increasingly linked to multinational criminal networks.
On-the-ground anti-poaching efforts remain sparse and, because of a lack of training and resources, are often outgunned and overwhelmed. Borders are too porous and unenforced to stop the flow of ivory along poorly policed trade routes.
Compounding the brazenness of poachers and traders, prosecution and penalties are often inadequate as deterrents.
Every 15 minutes an elephant is killed for its ivory tusks. Unless we act now, elephants face an uncertain future.