The US Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to destroy 6 tonnes of illegal ivory. The head of the Africa Branch of the USFWS, Richard Ruggiero, is an outspoken advocate for the destruction, which surely leads to concerns about conflict of interest?
Due to the US Government shutdown, the scheduled crushing of the illegal ivory has been postponed.
Ruggiero has argued that the destruction of the ivory will discourage poachers.
If anything, the destruction of the ivory will encourage poachers, driving up further the price of ivory. Flooding the market with ivory would more likely reduce the incentives to poach ivory.
Harry Clarke makes some sensible points about the proposed destruction. While I’m not advocating that elephants be farmed for their ivory, destroying a valued product is not likely to be best approach to the problem of poaching for ivory. After all, much of the demand is driven by the perceived qualities as an aphrodisiac.
The market, as always, is likely to provide the best solution. To the extent that demand for ivory is driven by those seeking an aphrodisiac, the development of alternatives which are less expensive and more efficacious would reduce the quantity demanded. So too is the appearance of alternative plastics and the like which offer improved performance whether as piano keys, billiard balls or fine carvings. Finally, demand is reduced when it causes embarrassment to potential owners.