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Research Supported By Columbus Zoo Unveils Growth In Illegal Ivory Sales In China

Media Alert: Wednesday, September 21, 2011


September 21, 2011

Jennifer Wilson                                                    
Communications Manager

Powell, OH – Research funded by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, along with conservation charities, Elephant Family and The Aspinall Foundation, has unveiled staggering growth in illegal ivory sales in China.
Researchers Esmond Martin and Lucy Vigne investigated Chinese ivory factory owners and retail ivory traders in two prominent ivory centers in Southern China: Guangzhou and Fuzhou. Findings include widespread illegal ivory sales, overwhelming demand and inadequate law enforcement, all of which contribute to a 50 percent increase in the number of ivory items in Guangzhou alone.
This alarming increase in the demand for ivory in China, the world’s largest importer of illegal ivory by weight, has resulted in the poaching of thousands of African elephants and 300-400 endangered Asian elephants each year. The poaching is unsustainable throughout their range, continuing to push these animals toward extinction in much of Southeast Asia and West and Central Africa.
“Poaching of elephants is very clearly driven by the market for their ivory, ” said Harry Peachey, Assistant Curator at the Columbus Zoo. “If you can control that market you stand a better chance of saving elephants as well as the people that risk their lives protecting them.”
Evidence of illegal Asian elephant ivory was also discovered; a disturbing finding as their population is approximately one tenth of African elephants.
Added Peachey, “Understanding what happens to the ivory after an elephant is poached is just as important to controlling this epidemic as is protection of elephants in the wild.”
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s relationship with Esmond Martin spans three decades.  In 1985, he served as a consultant and contributor for “The Last Rhino” – a documentary with Jack Hanna that was broadcast in central Ohio. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Martin has received several grants from the Zoo’s Conservation Fund for his research and numerous scientific publications on global markets for elephant ivory and rhino horn in African and Asia.
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The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 9,000 animals representing 675 species and provides more than $1 million annually to support over 70 conservation projects worldwide.  A recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Club, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium hosts more than two million visitors annually and was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide.  A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating. For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit