Mammoth Ivory: Helping or Hurting Elephants?

Mammoth Ivory: Helping or Hurting Elephants?

Kathryn Wright
Oct 1, 2010

There is a well-earned stigma attached to ivory trade. It was banned worldwide in 1989 when African and Indian Elephants were hunted to the brink of extinction for their valuable tusks, used for highly sought-after ivory ornaments. Now there is a legal and possibly ethical ivory option: it comes from tusks harvested from long-dead wooly mammoths. So does the mammoth ivory trade actually help create a demand for an unnecessary luxury item and aid elephant poachers who fraudulently claim that their ivory is from wooly mammoths?

According to this article, mammoth ivory is valued at around $350 USD per kilo, and there are an estimated 150 million mammoth skeletons beneath Siberia. With each spring thaw opportunistic locals scour Siberian lands for fossils in a seemingly victimless industry.

Interestingly, India has banned mammoth ivory fearing that it would provide a venue for poachers to fraudulently sell illegal elephant ivory. When comparing the cost of elephant tusks, which sell on the black market for about $50 per kilo, it becomes clear that there is a motive for elephant poachers to claim to sell mammoth ivory both for legal and financial reasons.

Recent mining development in Russia and interest in the Chinese marketplace have driven mammoth ivory demand and pricing sky high creating a boom in a once despised industry. So while true mammoth ivory appears to be a reasonable alternative to elephant ivory, it does seem to provide a legitimate disguise for elephant poaching.

So would you ever consider buying mammoth ivory?

(Images: 1. Mammoth Ivory Cameo by Mt Juneau; 2. Zodiac Mammoth Tusk from Wikipedia Commons)

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