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Ivory's Ghosts: The White Gold of History and the Fate of Elephants

John Frederick Walker.
Publisher Atlantic Monthly/QPB  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 8.25 x 5.5 x 0.95 inches
ISBN 9781615233991
Pages/Publication Date 312/2009
Daedalus Item Code 23473
This item is not available.
Long before gold and gems were known and coveted, humans have desired ivory tusks, the "jewels of the elephant," for their beauty, rarity, and ability to be finely carved. The author who championed the endangered sable antelope of Angola in A Certain Curve of Horn here tells the story of the lust for ivory—from ancient Egypt to 19th-century America and modern Japan—and its disastrous implications for elephants. Moving from a voracious ivory trade that slaughtered millions of elephants to a total ban that still has failed to stop poaching, John Frederick Walker looks at a middle road: the controlled sale of tons of stockpiled ivory, collected from elephants who died naturally, to fund the preservation of surviving elephant populations.

"With a mix of appalled testimony and meticulous research, Walker traces the story of ivory from Paleolithic times to the present and the devastation the ivory trade has wrought on African and Asian elephants—by one estimate, 2.8 million were killed between 1850 and 1914. At the height of the 19th-century craze for ivory—which included a savage dependence on slaves to transport tusks to African trading centers—it was used for sacred artifacts, piano keys, pistol grips, toothpicks and billiard balls. By the 1980s, poaching threatened the last herds in Africa, leading to a worldwide ban on international trade, but with unintended consequences from laws so restrictive no ivory could be sold at all. By 1994, nine African nations had stockpiled 100 tons of pickup ivory, harvested from elephants that had died a natural death. This great gift that the elephant leaves at the end of its life, writes Walker, should be sold to help conserve endangered herds, a controversial proposal that spotlights the deep divide between ardent supporters of continuing the ban and conservationists concerned about the future of the elephant, now more important than the treasure it supplies."—Publishers Weekly

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