Illegal trade seizures: Elephant ivory

Mapping the crimes

For World Elephant Day 2017, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has updated this ivory seizure map, detailing 150 large scale ivory seizures of 500kg or more between 2000 and July 2017.

Included in the updated map are conviction outcomes and pending prosecutions for 51 of the identified seizures. Additionally, we have provided the details of 15 known thefts from government stockpiles around the world. The release of the conviction outcomes highlights the woefully low conviction rate for ivory crimes, with only 19.3 per cent of these seizures known to have resulted in a conviction.

Of the total number of seizures, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Kenya returned the highest number, with 31, 15 and 14 seizures respectively. The prosecution outcomes and pending prosecutions for Vietnam and Hong Kong are low, with just two finalised outcomes, and two prosecutions in process for each country. Kenya, by contrast, was identified to have prosecution results for four cases, with a further six reported to have commenced prosecution. This confirms positive action in 10 of its 14 large-scale ivory seizures.

It is estimated that these large scale ivory seizures account for the death of approximately 37,438 elephants. Of particular concern, however, is that only 22.8 per cent (8,568) of known large-scale seizures have resulted in satisfactory legal outcomes. Such low conviction rates provide little deterrent for those involved in the illicit trade of ivory. The arrest and conviction of those persons is fundamental to bringing about long-term and meaningful change to effectively combat elephant poaching.

These low conviction rates provide little to no deterrent for criminals involved in the illegal trade of ivory. The arrest and conviction of these people is essential to bring about long-term and meaningful change in the fight to end elephant poaching.

A detailed analysis of the impact of large scale ivory seizures is available here, including information of several cases which EIA has identified as best practice for sentencing outcomes.

It is important to note that the map focuses only on publicly reported large-scale ivory seizures, their related convictions and thefts from government-held stockpiles. This information has been verified where possible. Conviction outcomes are based within the country of seizure, unless otherwise stated. It is therefore not an exhaustive data set and represents only a fraction of the actual level of trade between 2000 and July 2017. A list of the large-scale ivory seizures represented in the map along with additional information is available here, here and here.

EIA welcomes referenced information to update the map and the dataset is available for research and analysis upon request from samantharainsford[at]