Tanzania recently ended a policy of summary execution of elephant poachers predictably due to “a litany of arbitrary murder, rape, torture and extortion of innocent people.” The prime minister gave a PR response that, for me at least, sums up most government policy saying “The anti-poaching operation had good intentions, but the reported murders, rapes and brutality are totally unacceptable.”
World governments have taken the same measures they always do when individuals consume something that they arbitrarily deem distasteful and simply banned the sale of ivory; a method which has been categorically proved to simply not work. After all, how easy is it to buy narcotics in America? Or alcohol in the Middle East? Or other drugs…in prisons.
So what is my solution?
As with other commons violations such as over-fishing the answer to the dwindling elephant population is simple. Privatize it. Privatize what? You ask. The elephants of course! Ivory is a hot commodity in the third world, used for obvious things such as jewelry and decoration and not-so-obvious things like aphrodisiacs and snake-oil like medicines and this demand is not going away any time soon.
Allow promising entrepreneurs to tag, herd, breed, and protect groups of elephants for the purpose of harvesting their ivory, meat, hides, and any other parts of value for later sale throughout Asia and the world. By doing this you would ensure the existence of these animals for as long as there continues to be demand for them.