Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Short Sharp Science - Herd of ivory elephants reveals illicit trade in Egypt

Flora Graham, deputy editor,
(Image: Lucy Vigne/TRAFFIC)

Seeing row upon row of elephants would be a marvellous sight - except in this Egyptian souvenir shop, where the pachyderms are made of illegal ivory.
Despite being banned since 1990, a recent survey by TRAFFIC found that shops in Luxor and Cairo remain crammed with ivory trinkets. The dearth of foreign tourists since the Egyptian revolution has kept sales down, but the study found that the amount of ivory material for sale hasn't dropped since the last review in 2005.
Despite falling demand in the west, Chinese tourists have been keeping the market buoyant, according to shopkeepers interviewed for the survey. That keeps the pipeline of poached ivory, which usually runs from central Africa via Sudan, open for business, with traders being paid on average $275 for a kilogram of good-quality tusks.

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