Our new iPad app helps answer the question: what drives trade in elephant ivory?

Our new iPad app helps answer the question: what drives trade in elephant ivory?In the 1970s the African elephant population was estimated to be around 1.3 million individuals. In the last census conducted in 2007, it was estimated there are between 472,000 to 690,000 African elephants. In Asia there are no more that 52,000. 

Elephant populations are being slaughtered by their thousands each year by poachers to feed the demand for ivory, most notably in China.

But what drives the trade for ivory?

Today I thought I would share with you two important factors the International Fund for Animal Welfare outlines in our new online feature ‘White Gold- Ivory Trade Drivers’ to help begin to explain why the demand for ivory is growing.

Economic Powerhouse

China has become the biggest consumer market for illegal ivory, some 54% of all illegal ivory reaches the consumer markets in China.

Traditional investment methods, like property or stocks, inside China are showing poor returns. As a result many Chinese investors are investing in goods which are seen to have good long term potential – in art, porcelain, mahogany furniture, tiger-bone wine, rhino horn and most particularly in elephant ivory.

This investment trend coupled by a growing Chinese middle class and a strengthening local currency has resulted in growing demand for elephant ivory in China. IFAW is working with Chinese retailers and policy makers on the ground to help regulate demand and stop the illegal ivory trade in the country.

Click here to view ‘White Gold–Ivory Trade Drivers

Illegal Online Trade

In 2004 IFAW conducted an investigation into online trade in wildlife products and found that elephant ivory is the most commonly available wildlife product for sale on the Internet.

A follow-up survey in 2008, conducted in 11 countries worldwide, found that elephant ivory products made up over 70% of wildlife products sold online.

Recently, Google was accused of not doing enough to stop the online trade in illegal ivory by the advocacy group, Environmental Investigation Agency, who said that they had found over 10,000 ads on Google Japan’s shopping line.

Google promptly responded in an email saying, "ads for products obtained from endangered or threatened species are not allowed on Google. As soon as we detect ads that violate our advertising policies, we remove them."  

Tania McCrea-Steele of IFAW told The Associated Press, “the Internet is anonymous, it’s open 24 hours a day for business, and selling illegal ivory online is a low-risk, high-profit activity for criminals.”

IFAW has been highlighting the increasing role online shopping is having on driving the ivory trade with groundbreaking investigations like “Killing with Key Strokes”.

The report outlines the serious driving force online marketing and trading is playing in the illegal ivory trade.

In 2007 IFAW, recognising the role the Internet is playing on the illegal trade, started working with online trading giants like eBay to help them create policies that could not be abused or manipulated by ivory traffickers.

Find out more on what is driving the illegal ivory trade with IFAW’s online feature ‘‘White Gold- Ivory Trade Drivers’. And unveil the illicit ivory trade by helping IFAW spread the message.

IFAW’s online magazine “Unveiling the Ivory Trade” aims to use the internet to help show people that even today elephant poaching is still a huge problem in large parts of Africa and Asia.


To interact with the online magazine, click here.

To download the iPad app, click here

For more information about our work at the CITES CoP 16 in Bangkok, Thailand this week, click here.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy