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Friday, May 10, 2013


private property and elephant poaching

The population of elephants in Africa has declined dramatically in the last twenty years due to the overwhelming desire for ivory. In 1989 an international ban on the sale of ivory was implemented in an attempt to prevent the needless slaughter of these animals. Many objected though, including economist and nations whose citizen’s asserted property rights over these animals. In an essay written by Michael A. McPherson and Michael L. Nieswiadomy, African Elephants: The Effect of Property Rights and Political Stability, they conclude that 

…controlling for other factors, countries with property rights systems or community wildlife programs have rapid elephant population growth rates than do those countries that do not. Political instability and the absence of representative governments significantly lower elephant growth rates. (McPherson and Nieswiadomy)

Enacted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), the ban on ivory was not uniformly adhered to by many countries; especially the countries located in the southern tip, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, who all have a system devised in which property rights of elephants are governed and adhered to. For example, in, “Botswana…the elephant population has risen from 20,000 in 1981 to over 80,000 today. Zimbabwe, the roughly 30,000 elephants that existed in 1978 have increased their numbers by a factor of nearly 3 by this year (McPherson and Nieswiadomy).” Because of property rights there exists an economic incentive to protect the elephants by the very people who once hunted and killed them to prosper from the ivory trade. Like anything, if it’s held common to all, the resource will be used until it no longer exists. There exists more of an incentive for people to protect the elephant from illegal poaching when it is their property that’s directly affected by it.

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