Protecting the African Elephant: A Dynamic Bioeconomic Model of Ivory Trade
International trade in ivory is banned in order to protect the African elephant. The trade ban is supported by some range states, because it is seen as an effective means for protecting a 'flagship' species, but is opposed by states, mainly in southern Africa, because populations exceed the carrying capacity of local ecosystems. Issues concerning the ivory trade ban are addressed in this paper using a dynamic partial-equilibrium trade model that consists of four ivory exporting regions and a single demand region. Results indicate that a trade ban might not be successful in maintaining elephant populations, even if it leads to a stigma effect that reduces demand and increases the marginal costs of marketing ivory. Results suggest that the species will survive only if non-market values are taken into account. Surprisingly, however, the interaction between tourism benefits and marginal compensation from rich countries can lead to the demise of elephants in some regions where this would not be the case otherwise. Finally, elephant populations are even projected to crash if range states can operate an effective quota scheme, even one that excludes poaching. In the final analysis, however, free trade in ivory and effective institutions that translate numbers of elephants into monetary payments may be the best hope for the elephant.
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