NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Property Rights May Save Elephants

August 4, 2000

While saving the whales is a more popular slogan, the elephant is just as endangered. Hunted for their ivory, elephants went from 1.3 million in 1979 to 600,000 in 1989. To stop this decline, many nations banned the ivory trade. However, this did not appear to have an effect as the number of elephants fell to 543,000. A new study suggests that by establishing property rights on the animals, a handful of African nations have increased their herds.

For example:

  • Zimbabwe increased its herds from 52,000 in 1989 to 81,855 in 1994.
  • Botswana increased its herds from 20,000 in 1981 to 80,174 in 1994.

In contrast, among nations which agreed to the ban and did not establish property rights:

  • Mozambique's herds fell from 17,000 in 1989 to 1,495 in 1994.
  • Somalia's herds fell from 2,000 in 1989 to 130 in 1994.

The study concludes that a lack of property rights encourages illegal poaching. It also says that political instability affects the killing of elephants as well.

Source: Michael A. McPherson and Michael L. Nieswiadomy, "African Elephants: The Effect of Property Rights and Political Stability," Contemporary Economic Policy, January 2000.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues