Luanda--the largest illegal ivory market in southern Africa

Esmond Martin, Lucy Vigne


Luanda, the capital of Angola, has the largest illegal retail ivory market in southern Africa today. In early 2014 we surveyed the retail outlets in and around Luanda and counted 10,888 recently carved ivory items without proper documentation, and thus illegal. These pieces had been crafted in central Africa and Angola, mostly from poached forest elephants. The tusks can be obtained wholesale in Luanda for USD 150–250/kg. We estimated 92% of the total worked ivory on display was in Mercardo do Artesanato in Benfica in the southern outskirts of Luanda. The vendors there are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo and Angola. The buyers today are nearly all Chinese. There has been a huge increase in demand for worked ivory since 2005 due to the rising number of Chinese working in Angola, from 25,000 in 2006 to 260,000 in 2012. Items for the Chinese, such as jewellery, name seals, Buddhas and chopsticks, dominate the market. Retail prices can be a tenth of those in China, and construction workers go daily to Benfica market for worked ivory to bring back home. Not only is Angola acting as a main conduit for shipments of tusks wholesale to East Asia, but the blatant sale of ivory items in Benfica market encourages poaching as well. Angola needs urgently to enforce its domestic ban on ivory sales and the CITES ban.

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