Publication Date



It is well known that elephants face two basic threats to their existence. One is the fact that they bear large tusks, the primary source of ivory since prehistoric times. The other is that their natural habitats are being destroyed by human expansion. While the latter problem is at least being temporarily staved off in certain regions by the creation and expansion of sanctuaries, the ivory problem seems to defy rational solution even in protected areas, especially in Africa. This problem is neither so simple as it appears, nor is it a recent phenomenon. The roots go back to the beginning of civilization and beyond. Certain paradoxes apparently implicit in the history of the ivory trade, and in man's long-term association with elephants, can be explained in the framework of various bioeconomic correlations and in terms of man's own evolutionary heritage. The implications of biology and history do not necessarily predicate contradiction, confusion, and extinction. A proper comprehension of the ivory trade is essential to any organized solution.

Recommended Citation

Wylie, K. C. (1980). Ivory, Elephants, and Man: A Survey. Elephant, 1(5), 3-18. Doi: 10.22237/elephant/1521731829