Battle for the Elephants (Ep. 4): Massive Ivory Stockpile

And you can smell it; it’s almost like dried blood. There is the smell of death in here. All of these are confiscated trophies,” reports investigative journalist Aidan Hartley. We’ve just been given exclusive access to an astonishingly vast warehouse of government owned ivory in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

For our series finale, Aidan meets with Khamis Kagasheki, minister of natural resources in Tanzania, which stores the world’s largest stockpile of elephant tusks in the world — 90 metric tons. Kagasheki agrees to allow us to take the first-ever footage of the vast warehouse that stores thousands of tusks, valued at $50 million.

Unlike Kenya, Tanzania, one of the poorest countries in the world, has not agreed to burn its stockpile, arguing that the money from a sale could support conservation efforts. An official told us that if an international agency were to buy the tusks with the intention of burning them, they would eagerly sell them. But who would support such an idea?

Many in Tanzania would like to sell the ivory inside the warehouse – it would bring millions of dollars to a desperately poor nation. Others worry that another sale would just drive demand for ivory higher, and that would lead to more poaching. One thing is clear, perhaps the final battle for the elephants is being fought right now.


Watch “Battle for the Elephants” on PBS

Massive Ivory Stockpile in Dar es Salaam
Aidan Hartley is given rare access to a massive ivory stockpile in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania / J.J. Kelley for National Geographic Television



Meet the Author
J.J. Kelley is an Emmy nominated filmmaker and adventurer focusing on issues of conservation and wildlife crime. A producer and director of photography at National Geographic, Kelley’s work has appeared on The National Geographic Channel, NOVA, The New York Times, Outside Television and PBS. He is also the co-creator of the adventure production company, Dudes on Media. In addition to winning over 40 film festival awards including, Paddler Magazine called his Emmy nominated second film, "Paddle to Seattle" “the best feature film about paddling produced in the past decade.” Kelley is an Appalachian Trail Thru-hiker, biked across Alaska, kayaked from Alaska to Seattle, and traveled the length of The River Ganges. He regularly stops in the studios as a guest on National Geographic Weekend and recently starred in a television commercial for Nature Valley.