|Table of Contents|
Ivory - A currency
Kenya's ivory trade
Thoughts on future policy
A BACK(GROUMD TO TE IVORY YR\, 'km
A CONFIDENT ..L REPORT MADE AT THE REQUEST OF
J. BLOCK ESO.,
Wildlife Services Lta..
P. O. Box 30678.
IVORY A CURRENCY
An article is of value if made of ivory. Ivory is not of value because
certain things are made from it. In this respect it is like gold and the
reasons why men have chosen both with a very limited range of other
materials, as criteria of wealth through the ages have yet to be explained.
Elephant tusks do not bear the seal or stamp of any one nation, are
difficult to identify as to nationality, and thus freely negotiable. With the
exception of perhaps four of the smallest states in West Africa and Burundi,
all countries south of the Sahara have elephant populations and are ivory
producers. It is thus an "African" currency, and as "hard" as gold or
gems. it is widely used In barter in many countries and I have personal
experience of it being used to purchase vehicles, and discussed as a means
of payment for a large cement contract at Government levels.
I have not had time to assemble all data a-rlable to determine how many
tusks leave Africa annually. However it seems probable that it is in excess
of 200, 000 (100, 000 elephants) and may even be as high as 400, 000. The
average weight of tusk exported is not yet known. It will almost certainly
be in excess of 4.5 kilos and could easily be 9.0 kilos. If this is the
case the gross value of the continent's ivory exports will be between
US $72, 000, 000 and $144, 000, 000 annually. Even if actual exports are
only half the lower postulated figure, the volume is still "big money" in
Ivory is durable. Though made into articles it is not "consumed".
Year by year stocks accumulate and actual quantities In "circulation" must
vastly exceed any one year's production.. This accumulated stock
represents investments that run to at least hundreds of millions of dollars.
With this perspective the management of the ivory trade is more the
concern of international banking and government finance ministries, rather
than game departments.
The 1925 average value for East African Ivory was Sh 37.00 per kilo.
Had this grown in accordance with general Inflation at 10% annually over the
intervening years, Ivory value today would be Sh 3, 663.00 a kilo. This has
not happened. The actual trends in value between 1925 and 1973 are given
In Table 1 and Figure 1.
TA13LE 1 Average annual values in Shillings per kilo for East African
ivory exports 1925 1973.
1925 37.65 1949 23.32
26 31.63 1950 23.90
27 30.69 51 27.80
28 29.43 52 28.13
29 26.72 53 30.51
1930 21.23 54 21.98
31 7.50 55 32.05
32 17.17 56 33.40
33 13.18 57 32.78
34 13.18 58 31.30
35 14.09 59 29.50
36 12.37 1960 34.76
37 15.10 61 32.85
38 12.54 62 30.16
39 12.23 63 34.43
1940 13.65 64 38.67
41 12.85 65 44.29
42 15.52 66 42.26
43 20.39 67 43.36
44 20.22 68 38.84
45 21.58 69 40.14
46 25.33 1970 56.48
47 25.66 71 67.30
48 22.22 72 68.46
1973 233.36 (US$33.82)
60 .. /
20 ,---,. .._ ., '
.......... .. . ... ... ... ... . 8 "
166 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1D73
T I M E
FIG. 1 Average East African Ivory Values 1925 1973
against a curve representing 8% annual Increase.
From these It may be seen that there have been three major trends
1) A continuous fall in value from 1925 until 1936, which coincided
with the onset and duration of the great economic depression of the
ii) A gradual rise at approximately 4.5% annually until 1969, and
111) Very sharp rises In value 1970 1973 averaging 75% in each year.
The first of these trends seems to be the direct product of the Depression
and it appears that It led to ivory being re-valued. If we take the 1936 price
of Sh 12.37 per kilo as a starting point, and extrapolate a 10% growth rate
from 1936 until 1973, ivory should be worth Sh 419.98 per kilo today
(US $60.95). This price has been attained repeatedly on the International
ivory markets this year, suggesting that growth In value has been the
expected. However the East African Customs data for the first six months
of this year indicates an average value of Sh 233.36 per kilo. If this is a
genuine figure, growth over the years since 1936 has been slightly over
8% annually. I believe this to be incorrect and a reflection of illicit
The second trend in ivory values which lasted from 1936 until 1969,
Indicates a lower annual gain than was to be expected. I feel this is a
result of a deliberate buying policy by the major traders acting in concert,
rather than genuinely slow appreciation in values. For example, it has
never been reflected in East African values that calasia Ivory (a commercial
grade) was selling In India at Sh 132.00 per dlo in 1965. Further evidence
of artefact is the differences in prices paid between different regions of
Africa. While a certain quality may have raised Sh 33.00 per kilo In Kenya,
It would only attract Sh 16.00 in Southern Africa. However once buyers
with recent East African experience bought in the south, values equalised
to the East African levels. Such a situation was possible through the
Africantxad,, dmination by a relatively small group of Asians. The
over-riding advantage of such a policy would have been stabilisation of
production In the same manner that De Beers Influence diamond sales and
prices. It would also have permitted concealment of Income and thus fairly
massive evasion of tax. Since Independence in many African States, there
has also been an escalating desire by aliens to extract capital from them
Illegally. Depressed ivory prices provided ample cover for this. Over
the period 1936 1969, the difference between the expected 10% annual
appreciation of ivory value and the actual annual rise of 4.5%, may reflect
the sum of tax evasion and concealed currency movements that have taken
place. If this is so, the amount is considerable.
The third trend apparent in the data in Table 1 and Figure 1 represents
a rapid rise from the depressed prices that prevailed until 1969 to the real
values that are the product of 10% annual inflation since 1936. These rises
have coincided with growing monetary instability and major declines in
the value of the US Dollar. Widespread uncertainty in "national currencies"
led to an urge to Invest In "international currencies" ivory and gold etc.
This drive has been particularly strong in the East. Normal channels were
unable to meet demand and speculators started widespread buying at source
- in Africa. Even at Government levels there has been support for this
approach. An example:
The Japanese Government has stocks of US Dollars that threaten to devalue
considerably and therefore wished to "dump" them. African countries need
"hard" currency, no matter how Ide-valued" It may be, and are therefore
prime "dumping" grounds. Most have, in addition, substantial trade
imbalances with Japan. Rather than pay the real value to the middlemen in
Hong Kong, it pays the Japanese to give the full rate to Africa to gain
substantial balance of trade benefit. Japanese, with Government blessing,
thus exchange their dollars for Ivory (to everyone's delight except the
traditional traders). Similarly, substantial quantities of ivory have made
their way to Peking, particularly from Tanzania.
The situation has been given greater complexity by the desire of many
aliens in Africa to extract investment from the continent, or to invest
outside it. This urge has reached a measure of desperation with Asians in
Kenya, but It also includes many prominent Africans in a number of states.
A measure of what may have been kept overseas from Kenya's exports in
the first 6 months of 1973 may be revealed by Customs Department valuation
of these at approximately US $35.00 per kilo. In this period much ivory has
In fact obtained over $60.00 per kilo. On the basis of my personal
experience I think that the. average price for all grades must have been
$45.00 over the 6 months, giving a margin of $10.00 over the Customs value.
If this Is the case proceeds kept outside Kenya will have amounted to
$2, 136, 730 or S 824, 992.27.
In conclusion: ivory is currently near its "real" values in Africa.
However speculation in it is wild and erratic. As I write I am aware of a
major London firm trying to sell a consignment of ivory, currently in
Beirut, ex Khartoum, worth miny thousands of dollars, to a company in
Botswana for resale to the Far East no one In the London firm having
seen the consignment or dealt in ivory before. The situation has many of
the chaotic aspects of a gold rush, and it is in Africa's interests to
organise the trade.
KENYA'S IVORY TRADE
The most fundamental and continuous influence on elephant numbers
throughout this century has been human expansion. As people increase
they take up more land displacing elephant that may live on it. This
process Is unavoidable and would continue irrespective of any demand for
ivory. Kenya's domestic Ivory exports over the period 1925 1973 reflect
this process of attrition. The relevant data are presented in Table 2 and
Figure 2. From these it may be seen that the ex ports oscillated around
a growth rate of about 3% annually until 1970. The two major depressions
in the export pattern coincide with the second world war and Mau Mau
emergency respectively. Logically, it appears that these two political
events temporarily slowed output of ivory.
Abrupt Increases commenced in 1971. In that year exports rose by 86%
over the preceding year. In 1972 there was a further increase of 81% over
1971, and the first six months of 1973 saw a further gain of 42% over the
whole of 1972's output.
Kenya's annual exports
of Domestic ivory in kilograms
213, 673 (6 months only)
FIG. 2 Kenya's Annual Exports in
10Kograms 1925- 1973
F 3% growth curve
I 90.. Annual Exports
207 ... I
... .. .. ..................................... . .........
1925 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1973
T I M E
Examination of export response to increases in value is made for the
period 1925 1973. Figure 3 Illustrates the relationship graphically. It
seems fairly clear that price increases coincide with increases in exports.
The great growth of exports 1971 1973 seems a direct response to the
rocketing local values.
Other than the general export statistics kept by the Customs Department,
there is no composite collection of data relating to the trade in Kenya.
Theoretically, the Game Department should be able to trace the origin of
every tusk legally possessed In Kenya. This Is not the case. Apparently
most of the Department's records prior to 1965 have disappeared and no
annual reports have been issued since 1965. Even the number of animals
shot on control by the Department itself seems subject to dispute.
Nevertheless, despite the absence of accurate data, it Is possible to assemble
a speculative picture of what has been happening.
Let us concentrate on domestic Ivory exports for the first six months of
1973. In this period 213.67 tons were recorded as leaving Kenya. To have
been documented by Customs all this ivory must have been covered by
Changes in values from year to year related to changes
In export volumes 1925 1973.
1925 1962 Total E. A. ivory trade volume
1962 1973 Domestic exports only as imports ceased in 1962
-S I 5
/ Il- \ i' :1
1940 1950 1960
.... .. /:
permits from the Game Department. Legal sources of ivory are limited to:
1) Elephant shot on licence. It would appear from data obtained from
the Department that this source accounted for c.31 tons (14.5% of
ii) Game Department control shooting. It is difficult to get figures on
this. Normally the Mombasa auctions provide some Information on
the amount of control work, but in 1973 such ivory appears to have
been disposed of by other means. At the only auction held this year
the Department produced only 0.68 of a ton (0.3% of exports) : 174
tusks averaging 3.9 kilos each (this must be the smallest quantity
auctioned by the Game Department in Mombasa in 60 years). It Is
believed that about 500 elephant were shot on control In 1970 and that
the numbers have not substantially increased since then. If this is
so the six months of our Interest should account for 250 elephant.
Should these provide 27.22 kilos of Ivory each (a generous figure in
view of previous records) control work should have provided 6.8 tons
(3.18% of the 6 months' exports).
III) Natural Mortality. This normally provides a substantial quantity of
ivory for Government. Its absence at the last auction is puzzling.
It is also the major source of national parks' ivory and part of the
ivory gathered from the 1971 die-off of elephants in Tsavo was sold
in June. This amounted to 16.9 tons (7.9% of the 6 months' total).
iv) Collectors' Permits. These permits are an innovation that appeared
in the late 1960s. Essentially they are a Chief Game Warden's Permit
(given by that officer at his discretion) allowing an Individual (or group)
to "collect" ivory. Presumably the rationale is to permit the
recovery of "found" ivory (a very good reason as natural mortality
constitutes the largest potential source of ivory in the country.)
However, it would appear that these collectors' permits are responsible
for 163,29 tons (76.4% of the 6 months' exports) out of the 213.67 tons
exported. This may be so, but there is no precedent to suggest that
this could have come from "found" ivory. It would be naive to conclude
anything other than that the collectors' permits have been used as an
extensive cover for illegal ivory trading.
Let us now consider illegal aspects of the trade. There are two major
sources of illicit ivory: internal poaching and the import of ivory from
outside Kenya. In concord with the rising price of ivory, there has been a
growing outcry over the amount of elephant poaching taking place in 1973.
In the main reports of this stem from professional hunters and to a lesser
degree from national park wardens. There has been considerable subjective
corroboration of these through the abundance of elephant carcasses sighted
from the air. There can be no doubt therefore that elephant poaching In
Kenya has reached high levels even though it is not possible to place reliable
figures on Its extent.
What Is of considerable importance in this analysis is that though 1971
and 1972 experienced massive increases In ivory exports, there were no
comparable outcries about poaching to that in 1973. This raises the
possibility that at least part of the recent exports came from outside Kenya.
For Kenya to deal in this commodity would be nothing new. Prior to 1962,
Kenya's total ivory exports were comprised of 3 to 4 times as much imported
Ivory as there was domestic production. Mombasa was the biggest entrepot
Ivory centre on the continent outside Zanzibar.
From my trading outside East Africa, I am aware that considerable
quantities of ivory are indeed being sent to Kenya. I was personally
approached by two African ivory dealers in Nairobi, both of whom wanted
to buy ivory from outside Kenya. Both scolfed at the Idea that there should
be difficulty In getting any amounts into the country "legally". A Zarean
gentleman offered me a supply of 5 tons a week in Nairobi (ex Zaire).
Similar quantities to this pass through Juba from Zaire weekly, and I have-
no grounds to disbelieve the offer. At least one Nairobi company has handled
substantial quantities of Tanzania ivory this year. Tanzanian hunters openly
admit they send their ivory to Nairobi. Examination of Tanzanian statistics
Indicates that last year 250 tons were exported, but that unlike Kenya, the
values declined from the 1971 level by 20%. (Evidence of a state monopoly
lowering prices out of phase with general trends and thereby creating
Incentive to by-pass it Illegally.) This year Tanzanian exports are down
very steeply indeed, and though the price is up on 1972, it is still well
below Kenya's level. It is certain that quantities of Tanzania Ivory are
coming to Kenya Illegally to take advantage of higher prices hence the
decline In this year's legal exports from that country.
All my evidence indicates that considerable quantities of ivory are
coming Into Kenya from neighboring and nearby states.
Finally, to conclude this chapter, I must make some comment on who is
In the trade.
..At the moment Asians are still the largest dealers in ivory. One Nairobi
family alone has accumulated more than 100 tons of ivory in Hong Kong.
Most of them have "shadow" companies In Europe or the Far East who act
as their "buyers". For them It is a major route for getting substantial
quantities of capital away from Africa. There are a few Europeans trying
to enter the trade for the same reasons as the Asians, but these, for the
most part, have been singularly unsuccessful mainly through complete
ignorance of how to set about it However, there is a very rapidly growing
African Involvement In the trade, as has been apparent from the past two
auctions In Mombasa. Some have "gone It alone". Others have entered Into
partnerships with Asians.
The outstanding point is that some of these Africans are of political
consequence. The liaisons they make both Internationally and internally -
may have repercussions beyond the sphere of business, especially if any
Illegality Is Involved. Blackmail becomes a probability.
THOUGHTS ON FUTURE POLICY
I shall summarlse the ground covered so far:
1. Ivory is a currency of International standing that is presently in great
demand. Its value to Afrlca runs to millions of dollars annually, as
well as serving to facilitate inter-state trade. However, the cumulative
quantities outside Africa particularly the Far East represent investments
that must run to at least many hundreds of millions of dollars.
2. There Is no effective management of the resource in Africa. By
demonstration, conservation departments are in Ignorance of the situation
and totally unequipped to handle It. Such control as there has been
appears to have been effected by the Ivory traders themselves
influencing production through prices. Tenuous at the best, this has
been destroyed by instability in the world monetary system and trends
in African politics. Currently elephant management and the ivory trade
Is a scene of chaos and wild speculation.
3. Kenya's exports have soared In response to rising local prices. They
have been used as a major vehicle for transferring capital out of the
country. Funds lost to Kenya in the first six months of 1973 may have
been of the order of US $2, 136, 730.00.
4. Kenya's exports of 213.67 tons of ivory In the first six months of 1973
cannot be satisfactorily accounted for by conventional legal sources.
It would appear that the "unconventional" collectors' permits may be
responsible for 76% of exports and are felt to have given cover to
much illegal ivory.
5. The level of poaching in Kenya is currently high, but probably does
not account for the bulk of illegal ivory. This is made up from sources
6. There are people of great political consequence In Kenya involved In
the Ivory trade. In view of the enormous sums of money represented
by Ivory, such involvement could have much wider repercussions than
There Is an obvious case for the organisation and management of Africa's
Ivory trade. However the subject Is so wide and with such far-reaching
implications that at this stage all one could hope to do would be to obtain
more information and perhaps try to achieve some measure of stability in
A number of facets of the problem need attention and I shall endeavour
to outline some of them here. Any hope that the ivory trade will be long-
lasting depends on the future of the continent's elephant populations.
Hitherto conservation of elephant has been for their own sake. Appreciation
of the value of Ivory introduces a new aspect to their management. They
are the source of the continent's single most valuable wild life by-product.
To date Game Departments have tended to regard ivory as a sportsman's
bonus, and little more. To my knowledge there are only five African states
with any knowledge of what their total elephant stocks might be; these are
Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, South Africa and Rhodesia. The major producers'
stocks remain unassessed; these are Zaire, Tanzania, Sudan, Central
African Republic, Mozambique and Angola. However the sheer volume of
ivory coming off the continent indicates that elephant numbers must run to
several millions. This Is far more than conservationists had thought
possible. Thus In Kenya alone there were estimated to be c. 165, 000 elephants
In 1969 of which 65, 000 were in National Parks or reserves of some kind.
However it Is not numbers that should be the focal issue, but the rates of
decline. Most of Africa's elephants live outside parks. In the face of human
increase these will undergo progressive decline. There will be an inevitable
o .. .." }, ,
supply of ivory from this interaction of elephants and men. In addition
there will be the far greater quantities available through natural mortality.
These two inevitable sources, will constitute a basis for an ivory trade
whether it is legal or illegal for a long time to come.
The most pragmatic attitude conservationists can take is that such
declines as there may be in elephant outside parks should be kept in phase
with human Increase. This would ensure that when and if human populations
stabilise there will still be the optimal number of elephants commensurate
with that level of the human population. However there may be other
pressures and equally logical alternative policies. In a continent desperately
short of capital, bankers, industrialists or politicians may prefer to capitalise
elephants outside parks In the short term to finance development.
Another component that must be considered is the predicament of the
rural African the poacher who lives close by elephants. Generally
conservationists give little thought to the sociological consequences of their
dogmas. Subsistence peasants are under enormous pressure to join the
monetary economy. They have to have money to pay school fees, hospital
charges, taxes etc. Without it they cannot be part of modern society. In
much of rural Africa, particularly in drier areas, the only source of money
is wild life. It is preposterous to think that people in this situation, be they
of any race on earth, would not use ivory if they can get it. The rewards are
so great that they will take enormous risks to secure it and convert it into
money. The problem here then is how does one arrange for locals to
participate in the ivory trade legally and in an orderly manner? Certainly the
current system whereby elephants are reserved for the very rich does not
approach the problem at all.
The original legislation enacted in 1900 sought to ban free trading In
ivory in Kenya, and thereby destroy it as a medium of business. The
persistence of ivory sales over the intervening 73 years and its widespread
use today illustrate the futility of this policy. All that happens in the face of
such legislation is that the business goes underground. Today, much that is
illicit about the trade is unnecessarily Illegal and gives rise to problems
that need never exist.
For example : the Southern Sudan has precious little wealth except
ivory and the people there have no option bul to use it in trade. Their major
source of supplies for a wide range of goods is Kenya who is under
pressure to expand markets. It would be a relatively simple matter to
reach agreement at Government levels on an exchange rate for ivory and
thus bring dealing into the open where it is relatively controllable. At
present however, it is secretive, uncontrollable and both parties in trade
do not receive maximum returns. The legislation that established this
situation the banning of ivory imports into East Africa was enacted to
reduce elephant hunting In other states. It did not achieve this. For a
period the ivory went elsewhere, and today appears to be coming to Kenya
once again. This time it is illegal. A great deal of present "corruption"
in the trade would not be so if this aspect was removed. There is a need for
firm Government control, but equally a need to make legislation realistic.
The obvious way to gain stability in the ivory trade is to control prices.
Proof of this Is the long period of stability that prevailed from 1936 to 1969
In Kenya. By acting in caucus the traders appear to have maintained
considerable control in the industry. Today such control as thore is on
prices comes from outside Africa. It is in the interests of the continent to
try to capture such Influence. By regulating supply (as do De Beers with
diamonds) this should be possible. However a common policy between the
major African ivory producIng.states would be necessary. If four of the
larger producers were to agree on a common sales policy they could achieve
some control very quickly, but failure to act in unison would negate any
country's efforts. Thus Zaire and Tanzania which have banned Ivory
exports except through central agencies, still export quantities of ivory
through illicit channels into neighbouring states who, not having a common
policy, couldn't care less (or actively encourage It !)
Perhaps a continental ivory market could be established on the lines
of the world's metal markets in London. Kenya, with its past history as an
entrepot ivory centre, would be ideally based for such an operation.
Another aspect deserving attention is the role of Asians In the Ivory
trade. While they are to be pitied In their quandary, their continued
participation in the business during these times of uncertainty (for them)
can only lead to continued capital losses to East Africa. There is no solution
but to divorce them from it entirely.
Likewise the Game Department is clearly the most inappropriate
organisation to handle any aspect of ivory trading. By demonstration it
has proved inept and any re-organisation of the current situation that still
included Game Department control would create no public confidence either
locally or internationally.
I have skipped from point to point in this report and left a great deal of
ground untouched. Nevertheless I hope that it serves as an introduction to
the breadth of the ivory problem and leads to some action. In conclusion
I feel that the Kenya Government should establish a commission to review
the ivory trade. There is sufficient time and there are elephants enough
for this to be done thoroughly. Any such review should include at least
some of the Kenyans dealing In ivory. Any new legislation should seek to
establish an honourable industry in place of the furtive business that
exists at present. This would support the conservation of elephant and not
undermine it as at present.
18th October, 1973 I.S.C. PARKER