Banning ivory trade in effort to save elephants achieves just the opposite. Since no property rights are placed upon these enormous creatures, the race to the bottom ensues. Understandably, privately owning and maintaining these 4–ton animals would be a great task, but doing so would not only yield large returns in the sale of their ivory, but also the sale of meat. Furthermore, the owner would be the residual claimant of his efforts to keep the elephants and their ecosystems thriving.
If wildlife conservators aim to keep the elephants from extinction, banning the trade of their ivory is not the most effective choice. Making ivory illegal to obtain does not automatically change its’ demand, but simply increases the price of the good. Instead of using trade avenues such as eBay, who reportedly will cease ivory auctions in 2009, the good will revert to the black market. Under this ban, poachers face a higher incentive to kill these animals due to the increased value placed on their heads. This will leave fewer, and ultimately no elephants.
As the article seen at Slate Magazine here, eBay’s auction site maintains databases of their sales. Conservation and wildlife programs, along with law-enforcement are aided in their efforts to track amounts of ivory traded and also where it is being sold. Regardless of the aims of these organizations and programs, bans on ivory trade and furthermore, self imposed bans by trading companies will result in much deeper problems.