Asian Elephant Market

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The African elephant is threatened foremost by habitat loss and habitat fragmentation due to conversion of wildlife areas for agriculture, livestock farming, and human infrastructure. As a result, human-elephant conflict has increased over the years. In addition, poaching for ivory has also become the most immediate threat for African elephants.

While there are calls by some organisation internationally that trophy hunting should be banned to save the elephant population, Botswana and other KAZA states do not agree with such proposals. This is because these KAZA states consider the elephant population in the region to be stable and healthy. Much of the trophy hunting market for Southern Africa is in Europe and America. For Botswana, the European Union trophy hunting market comprises of 30% while the USA market is the largest at 70%. Since the European and American trophy hunting market is under threat, there are calls that KAZA states and Botswana should begin seeking alternative markets especially in Asia and establish value chain industries.

The market for elephant products in Asia has historically been significant, primarily driven by cultural, traditional, and medicinal uses. However, the Asian market is also facing international regulations and many of these markets are now heavily restricted or illegal due to calls for conservation of the elephant population. Ivory from African and Asian elephants has been historically prized in Asia for its use in carving intricate artworks, religious artifacts, and traditional medicine.

The demand for ivory in countries like China, Japan, and parts of Southeast Asia contributed to a substantial market. However, international bans and domestic regulations have severely restricted legal trade in ivory. In addition, traditional Chinese medicine historically used various parts of elephants, including ivory, bones, tusks, and even dung, for medicinal purposes. These uses were believed to treat ailments ranging from fever to joint pain. However, due to conservation concerns and global efforts to protect elephants, the use of elephant products in traditional medicine is increasingly discouraged and regulated.

In Asian cultures with Buddhist and Hindu traditions, elephant imagery and artifacts have cultural and religious significance. Statues, sculptures, and ceremonial objects featuring elephants have been used in temples, festivals, and rituals. While there is cultural value, the market for new ivory artifacts has declined significantly due to international bans.

Despite international regulations and efforts to combat illegal trade, there continues to be some illegal trafficking of elephant products in Asia. This includes ivory from both African and Asian elephants, which may still find a market in certain countries despite the bans. That is, while there has been historical demand for elephant products in Asia, particularly ivory and traditional medicines, conservation efforts and international regulations have significantly reduced the legal market.

Efforts are ongoing to further curb illegal trade and protect elephant populations in the wild. As a result, while Botswana and other KAZA states are calling for alternative trophy hunting market and are watching the Asian market, indications are that it will not be as easy as many think to penetrate that market. Botswana and KAZA states will therefore be forced to market a vigorous campaign that justifies why they should continue trading in wildlife species through trophy hunting. The Government of Botswana under President MEK Masisi has decided to embark on this hard and difficult journey of justifying to the international community why Botswana should be allowed to continue with trophy hunting to the international community.

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