Can we sustainably harvest ivory?

Despite the 1989 ivory trade ban, elephants continue to be killed to harvest their tusks for ivory. Since 2008, this poaching has increased to unprecedented levels driven by consumer demand for ivory products. CITES is now considering the development of a legal ivory trade. The proposal relies on three assumptions:

(1) harvest regulation will cease all illegal activities,

(2) defined sustainable quotas can be enforced, and

(3) we can define meaningful sustainable quotas that come close to the current demand. We know that regulation of harvest does not stop illegal takes. Despite whaling regulation after World War II, illegal whaling continued for decades.

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