EIA has been at the forefront of the global battle to save elephants for nearly 30 years. 

In 1989, our groundbreaking exposé on rampant poaching and a billion-dollar black market ivory trade led the successful effort to trigger a global ban on international trade in elephant ivory.

The ban brought the African elephant back from the threat of extinction. But today, the international ban is significantly weakened after Japan and then China were allowed to legally import ivory from four southern African countries (South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana). The main culprit is soaring demand from Chinese and Japanese consumers for carved ivory products and personal name seals.

Our unique approach

EIA works to expose and shut down illegal ivory trade, both internationally and within countries like China and Japan, with big domestic markets.

We track elephant poaching in Africa, expose illegal domestic ivory trade in Asia and monitor black market shipments worldwide. Using this evidence, we campaign for changes in ivory trade policies and regulations. 

We also lead NGO efforts to reestablish to total international ivory trade ban, put in place by the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1989.

Stopping sales of African stockpiles 

In the late 1990s and again in 2008, southern African countries were permitted to sell stockpiled elephant tusks to buyers from China and Japan. The “one-off” sales stimulated the market, confused consumers and encouraged more poaching by fueling the belief that full-scale ivory trade would resume. 

EIA works to prevent efforts by other African countries to sell their lucrative ivory caches. In 2007 and 2010 we exposed rampant domestic black markets for ivory in Zambia and Tanzania. As a direct result in 2007, Tanzania withdrew its proposal to sell its ivory stockpiles, and in 2010, the international community rejected Tanzania and Zambia's bid to sell their stockpiles.

Exposing China’s ivory black market

EIA’s influential 2007 report, Made In China, exposed China’s pivotal role in Africa’s poaching upsurge, charting soaring demand from Chinese ivory traders and consumers.

In 2008, EIA revealed that 110 metric tonnes of ivory were missing from Chinese government controlled stocksunderlining the corruption and lack of high level political will to enforce meaningful actions against the illegal ivory trade in China. 

Follow up investigations in 2010 and 2011 exposed a growing illegal trade in China with prices for ivory reaching ten times the value estimated in 2005.  That same year, Ivory traders revealed to EIA investigators that up to 90% of ivory items for sale in China had no legal permits.

Armed with this information, we are pressing China to not only tighten enforcement against ivory smuggling but to permanently ban their domestic trade in ivory.

Japan’s sustained, uncontrolled ivory market

EIA works to expose the essentially uncontrolled domestic ivory trade in Japan and to eliminate the trade in ivory in the market.  Japan has an overlooked and sustained domestic trade in ivory, particularly in "hanko",( Japanese name seals used to affix signatures to documents). Sales in hanko are a major demand driver for elephant ivory and have contributed to the wide-scale resumption of elephant poaching across Africa.

In March 2013, we exposed internet giants Google and Amazon.com for openly advertising ivory products on their Japanese shopping sites against their own policies, feeding the Japanese demand for ivory products. In response, Google and Amazon.com completely removed the tens of thousands of ads offering ivory items on their Japanese sites.

Working against stimulating demand

EIA is striving to spread the message worldwide to “stop stimulating demand” for ivory and other threatened wildlife products. Currently up for debate in CITES is a “Decision-Making Mechanism” for a potential future trade in African Elephant ivory. Reducing the demand for products from elephants, rhinos, and tigers, is critical and discussing a future trade in ivory stimulates demand for ivory.

The demand for ivory cannot be reduced while policy makers discuss the potential of a legal trade and grey markets hosting both legal and illegal products exist. EIA is working to remove the Decision-Making Mechanism from the policy table.

Read our UK colleagues’ recently released briefing, Stop Stimulating Demand! 

Visit EIA’s UK site to learn more about our multifaceted elephant campaign.