The over-exploitation of African elephants for their ivory has led to a dangerous decline in their overall population. As a result, they were granted protection under the CITES international trade agreement and given an Appendix I listing, which completely bans their international trade. I investigate the following question: under what circumstances is the limited trade allowed under the CITES ivory trade ban an effective strategy to stall the illicit trafficking of elephant ivory? Using Kenya and Zimbabwe as case studies, the feasibility of the preservationist and utilitarian viewpoints on elephant conservation are explored. This paper argues that the CITES ban on trade in elephant ivory is not the most effective way to protect elephant populations. Instead, limited and regulated trade should be instituted to ensure that African range states receive tangible benefits from elephant conservation. This could be achieved through keeping the more endangered forest elephants classified under Appendix I while moving the more stable savannah elephants to Appendix II. Community-based rights to elephants, specifically, should be put in place to ensure that locals living in close proximity to elephants have significant incentives to actively participate in elephant conservation, rather than participating in poaching or turning elephant habitat into agricultural land. While community-based wildlife rights under an Appendix II listing for savannah elephants are in no way perfect, they are a more effective and realistic means of conserving elephants than the alternative of a blanket ban.

First Advisor

Brad Dillman

Second Advisor

Nick Kontogeorgopoulos

Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in International Political Economy

Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2014