Does breaking up ivory stocks work?

There is a spate of “supply side restriction” measures going on at the moment with ivory. Last month, President Obama authorized the crushing of ivory. Yesterday the French Government announced that it would destroy all its stocks of ivory. Whilst the intention of the destruction is clear, i.e. to send out a message that the ivory trade is considered wrong, there is no evidence that it reduces the incentive for gangs to poach elephants. Arguably, if it reduces supply, it would raise the price that consumers are willing to pay and thus the reward for poachers.

According to a French environmental NGO Robin des Bois who have lobbied for the destruction, there are six good reasons for this – I put my questions/queries in italics:

– Show the country’s determination to fight against ivory related crime.

Does “showing determination” achieve results? Are criminal gangs concerned by “determination” (ask the Mexican druglords or Malaysian wildlife traders).

– Avoid theft or misappropriation of seized ivory.

Destruction not the only way – one can also improve security of the stocks by placing them in bunkers (rather than Museums)

– Eradicate any temptation for speculation of ivory trade awaiting the possibility of reopening legal ivory trade.

Is there any evidence of speculation?

– Demonstrate solidarity with African and Asian countries fighting against poaching and which deplore many victims among wildlife guardians.

Is solidarity needed or workable solutions? What evidence is there that armed militia in Africa concern themselves with the solidarity of Western governments? They appear to be increasing their level of poaching and thus unconcerned by such efforts of solidarity.

– Join in the recent movement of voluntary destruction (Philippines, State of Maharashtra in India, and the United States).

Just because another country is doing it does that mean it is the right policy measure – this could be classed as a “Lemming Policy”

– Be consistent with destruction procedures of other seized substances and articles (drugs, medicines, Chanel bags or counterfeit Lacoste shirts).

How does consistency with the destruction of other illegal products constitute evidence for this being an effective policy measure? The other example are different in these objectives: Destruction of seized fake medicines makes sense as they pose a threat to human health.Destruction of fake branded items makes sense as it protects brand owners intellectual property.

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