Sever the arteries of the illegal ivory trade

Ivory Shipping Routes

It all seems so simple.

Poachers are out there killing elephants. That is very, very bad.

Wildlife Rangers are out there to catch poachers. Good news.

All we need to do is make sure that the Rangers have the equipment and manpower to do their job and elephants will be safe.


A new report, Out of Africa, commissioned by Born Free USA and authored by top security analysts at C4ADS, has peeled back the lid on the murky world of international crime syndicates, racketeering, smuggling routes and the powerful people who provide cover for illegality on a massive scale.

Recent figures indicate that up to 100,000 elephants have been poached across Africa in the last 3 years. I reckon it could be more – a lot more!

How on earth is that possible?

As Out of Africa and its prequel Ivory’s Curse (highlighting the militarisation of the ivory trade) show, the reach and influence of corruption spreads far and wide.

Politicians, business leaders, entrepreneurs, haulage companies, airlines, shipping lines, customs officials, law enforcement agents and more are in up to their necks, tempted by massive profits, weak enforcement and low penalties if caught.

In addition, Out of Africa provides a detailed examination of the illicit ivory supply chain, including:

- Illegal ivory flows primarily in containers through the international shipping system. At least 100 containers may be moving annually, the majority through a small number of chokepoints.

- A large majority of all of the illegal ivory is accounted for within a small number of transactions; through a small number of ports and airports; and to a small number of criminal networks.

- Just the three ports of Mombasa, in Kenya, and Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar in Tanzania act as exit points for the majority of shipments, pointing to the need for more carefully-targeted enforcement efforts.

- The top three airports in the chain are in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, and Johannesburg.

- Traffickers able to operate from the forest to the market can earn more than 2,500% in profit margins.

Born Free USA’s CEO Adam Roberts, interviewed by National Geographic, put his finger on the key issue highlighted by Out of Africa:

“The report says that too much attention is paid to the beginning and end of the ivory supply chain—on poaching and demand—and that more should be paid to how ivory is transported.

The priority has been focused historically on that which is readily accessible. Images of elephant carcasses littering the African savannah show the poaching problem. Ivory for sale in China and other East Asian markets shows the demand problem. But the intervening supply is hidden from sight.

Born Free has seen a strong focus on poaching and also on demand, but the third aspect of the trade—the movement of ivory from the dead elephant to the consumers’ hands—is a vital focus and provides a further pressure point to stop the trade and save elephants.”

Too right! The ivory trade has to be choked off at the supply end, the demand end but, crucially, right along every component of the supply route. We must not let them get away with it!

For more on the fight against the ivory trade, visit

Blogging off!


One Response to “Sever the arteries of the illegal ivory trade”

  1. Gill Gilbey Says:

    Dear Will,
    You seem to have answered your own question.You have named the 3 airports and ports where ivory is transported from and although I’m not Sherlock Holmes that would seem like the best place for police interpol and other law agencies to focus on.There must be strong evidence there to unearth.There doesn’t seem to be much mentioned on the err-”demand end bit” about which little or nothing is said! To my mind this is the crux of the matter.