Letter: Wildlife conservation in Africa: on the horns of a dilemma

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The Independent Online
Sir: Whatever Dave Currey's credentials are with respect to wildlife conservation, they do not extend to economics or to recent history (Letters, 14 April).

If sustainable utilisation increased the supply of ivory, it could hardly have 'increased ivory prices'. Elementary economics tells us that a bigger supply could only have brought prices down, discouraging poaching. Nor was the ivory ban a reaction to the failure of sustainable utilisation policies. It was a response to under-investment in elephant conservation in those countries north of Zimbabwe that did not practise sustainable utilisation.

The evidence for this is very straightforward; the only countries to show increases in elephant populations in the 1980s were those that practised sustainable utilisation: Botswana (from 20,000 to 68,000), Zimbabwe (from 47,000 to 52,000), South Africa (constant at 8,000) and Namibia (2,000 to 32,000). My colleagues and I, who were involved in the proceedings leading up to the ban, set out the facts and the economics several years ago. Mr Currey could profit from a reading of Elephants, Economics and Ivory (Edward Barbier and others), Earthscan, London, 1990.

Yours sincerely,


Director, Centre for

Social and Economic Research

on the Global Environment

University College London

London, WC1