Elephant Economics in the Rough: Modelling Ivory Trade (Draft)
G. Cornelis van Kooten
25 October, 2005


Trade in ivory is banned under CITES in an effort to protect the African elephant. The trade
ban is supported by some range states, most notably Kenya, because they see the ban as an
effective means for protecting a ‘flagship’ species, one that attracts tourists and foreign aid. It
is opposed by some states, mainly in southern Africa, because their elephant populations are
exceeding the capacity of local ecosystems with culling and other sources have resulted in the
accumulation of large stocks of ivory. They argue that ivory trade will benefit elephant
populations. The question of whether an ivory trade ban will protect elephant populations is
addressed in this paper using a dynamic partial-equilibrium model that consists of four ivory
exporting regions and a single demand region. Results indicate that a trade ban can be
successful in maintaining elephant populations if the ban leads to a stigma effect that reduces
demand and increases the marginal costs of marketing ivory. Surprisingly, elephant
populations are projected to crash if range states can operate an effective quota scheme that
even excludes poaching. However, free trade in ivory can be made to protect the elephant if
western countries make effective side payments to range states based on in situ numbers of

Link to the full document: Elephant Economics in the rough