Forum: Global community has tried and failed to achieve a well-regulated ivory trade

We refer to Mr Eugene Lapointe's letter "Ban on domestic ivory trade may be counterproductive" (Sept 8).

As one of the leading entities that advocated the ban on domestic trade in elephant ivory in Singapore, WWF-Singapore reaffirms that such a ban sends a strong signal to the international community, and underlines the urgency of stopping the illegal wildlife trade and saving this iconic species.

Mr Lapointe's letter does not elaborate on what would constitute a "legal, well-regulated" elephant ivory trade, something that the international community has already tried and failed to achieve. His assertions about trends in the price paid for legal ivory also do not bear scrutiny.

First, and contrary to the assertion that ivory bans do not reduce demand, the World Wide Fund for Nature's annual consumer survey with GlobeScan on elephant ivory trade in China found that the country's ban had a huge impact on the consumption of ivory products. The demand for ivory has continued to decrease since China banned domestic trade in it in 2017 and is now at less than half of pre-ban levels.

Although Singapore's domestic elephant ivory market is small in comparison with China's, the domestic ban is crucial in preventing illegal wildlife trade.

Also, market surveys undertaken by wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic have shown that making ivory illegal has led to a reduction in price, given the drop in demand - contrary to one of Mr Lapointe's arguments.

The communities that we work alongside show no evidence of increased poaching even when local villagers did not see the commercial value in protecting elephants.

Increased poaching is more closely correlated with poverty and governance challenges in affected countries. The proceeds that poachers receive are a fraction of the retail price, and they rarely benefit from increased black market prices.

Regarding Mr Lapointe's allusion to a possible legal, well-regulated trade, it is true that some southern African countries have set appropriate regulations for ivory stocks. However, the difficulties lie with countries where demand for raw ivory remains.

Existing processes of determining the "legal" trade of only "antique" ivory made before 1947 have been limited in their effectiveness. Until there is suitable technology that can trace and monitor the trade of ivory, blanket bans will be necessary.

WWF-Singapore hopes this ban will continue to spur efforts in tackling illegal wildlife trade, and encourages South-east Asian governments to do the same.

Rohit Singh

Director, Wildlife Enforcement and Zero Poaching

WWF-Singapore