A new international analysis of consumer ivory demand released today by the National Geographic Society and GlobeScan presents empirical evidence that there is a substantial ivory market driven by ivory’s perceived suitability for gift giving and the social status ivory ownership conveys. This is despite the fact that support for government action to ban or limit the ivory trade is widespread in all countries surveyed, even among ivory owners and those who express an interest in buying it. Taken together, the results provide critical data and consumer insights that can inform and refine strategies to curb ivory demand that would ultimately help protect the world’s disappearing elephant populations.
National Geographic retained GlobeScan to research consumer demand for ivory in the five countries where demand for ivory is known to be concentrated — China, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and the United States. The three-phased study, conducted between February 2014 and September 2014, was designed to understand the dynamics driving ivory demand among adults 18 and older. Said Terry Garcia, chief science and exploration officer for the National Geographic Society, “We are sharing this research in the hope that it can help guide efforts to mitigate consumer demand in these critical markets.”
GlobeScan collected data using a variety of methods, including in-depth interviews, focus groups and quantitative surveys. Respondents in each country were grouped according to their stated interest in purchasing ivory and their self-reported financial ability to do so. Of the five groups identified, “Likely Buyers” are individuals who expressed the strongest intent to buy ivory in the future and by definition are the most likely to drive continued ivory demand.
The number of Likely Buyers is substantial, totaling 22 percent of respondents across all five countries surveyed. In China and the Philippines, Likely Buyers represent just over one-third of those surveyed.
A majority of these Likely Buyers (67 percent) — including current owners of ivory products — said they would support a ban on all ivory trade in their country.
The study also found that nonprofit environmental organizations, scientists and academics are the most trusted sources of information on issues related to ivory. According to Eric Whan, director of GlobeScan’s sustainability practice, “These types of organizations and individuals are uniquely positioned to impact consumer demand for ivory, particularly if people find the information these organizations and individuals provide worthy of passing on to peers.”
National Geographic initiated the study after the 2013 launch of the Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants, a three-year Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action, which aims to stop the killing of elephants for their ivory; stop the trafficking of illegal ivory; and stop the global demand for ivory. The Commitment to Action was made by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), African Wildlife Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare and Conservation International, and was announced at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. National Geographic and 10 other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are participating partners.
“As a founding member of the Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants, we welcome the results of the National Geographic/GlobeScan study,” said John Calvelli, executive vice president of public affairs at WCS and director of WCS’s 96 Elephants Campaign. “With an in-depth understanding of what’s driving consumer demand for ivory, we are much better positioned to stop that demand at its source and, ultimately, put an end to the incessant poaching of Africa’s threatened elephants.” The 96 Elephants Campaign brings together world citizens, partners, thought leaders and change makers to leverage collective influence to stop the killing, stop the trafficking and stop the demand.
Among the study’s other reported findings:
Likely Buyers may not be who you think.
- On average, Likely Buyers tend to fall into the low- to middle-income bracket; skew younger than average; and are somewhat more likely to have a religious affiliation.
- Likely Buyers tend to describe themselves as fashionable, social and religious. Their purchase decisions are more likely to be influenced by friends and a desire for products that convey financial and social position and give them a sense of pride. Likely Buyers are attracted most by the perceived power and status that ivory confers on owners.
The demands for ivory are complex.
- Across the five surveyed countries, the strongest drivers of ivory purchase intent are its perceived suitability for gift giving; the feeling of happiness it provides to the giver and the receiver; and the perceived status that ivory confers.
- The belief that there is nothing wrong with using animals as a source of materials or food and the desire to stand out for taste and style among peers are also important drivers.
Support for a government ban is widespread and is driven by a variety of factors.
- In all the countries surveyed, majorities of respondents said they would support a government ban on all buying, selling, importing or exporting of ivory.
- In descending order, the factors driving increased support for regulation are the rapid decline of African elephant populations and animal rights concerns; the illegality and criminal aspects of the ivory trade; and general consumer desire to make ethical purchases.
Investigative journalist Bryan Christy’s September National Geographic magazine cover story “Tracking Ivory,” a special investigation using fake tusks and hidden GPS devices to expose the trail of Africa’s elephant poachers and track the route of the illegal ivory trade, is available now at www.nationalgeographic.com/tracking-ivory and on print newsstands Tuesday, Aug. 25. In addition, National Geographic Channel will premiere “Explorer: Warlords of Ivory” on Sunday, Aug. 30, at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT, documenting Christy’s in-depth look at the devastating effects of the global illegal ivory trade. For more information, visitwww.natgeotv.com/explorer.