Survey of the ivory items for retail sale in Addis Ababa in 2008

Lucy Vigne, Esmond Martin


In a survey of ivory items for retail sale conducted in June 1999 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, almost 10,000 ivory objects were found, the fourth largest in Africa after Abidjan, Harare and Cairo. In 2004 TRAFFIC and the CITES Secretariat gave encouragement and technical help to the Government of Ethiopia to solve this problem; in 2005 the government cracked down on this illicit trade by confiscating illegal ivory items and
arresting all of the shop owners found with illegal ivory. A survey conducted soon afterwards counted only 78 ivory items in the shops and stalls.
In early 2008, having been informed that numerous ivory items were once again for sale in Addis Ababa, we carried out a further survey. We found 2,152 ivory items for sale of which 1,790 had been crafted after 1990 (the year of the CITES ban). Although this is still a significant decline since 1999, the number of new items is still alarming. Tusks were being smuggled in from Kenya and Sudan for the six or so Addis Ababa ivory craftsmen, as well as tusks being used from Ethiopian elephants. The price for tusks had greatly increased from 1999 to 2008, but many ivory items, especially name seals and chopsticks, were cheap compared with the East Asian market, encouraging foreigners, especially Chinese, to buy them. We suggest that another initiative should be taken by the Ethiopian government with assistance from TRAFFIC to encourage officials
yet again to enforce their laws against the illegal ivory trade.

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