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April 21, 2015

Analysis of Ivory Demand Drivers


Terms of Reference for short term research project



Poaching of elephants for their ivory has undergone a significant increase over the past 10 years. The driver for this increase appears to be growth in Chinese demand; the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) China initiated an ambitious demand reduction program in 2013 in order to address this threat to elephant populations. Retail demand has been the main focus of this work to date, however an additional driver is understood to be speculative demand which is unlikely to respond to retail focused demand reduction approaches.

To determine the main driver of ivory poaching in the Chinese market WCS China is looking to gauge the extent of ivory ‘in the system’, i.e. total amount of ivory in stockpiles, seizures, warehouse and retail stocks, etc. in comparison to the amount of ivory that has been poached since 2002. As illegal ivory continues to be openly retailed it can therefore be counted as being ‘in the system’. However, we the hypothesize that the amount of ivory poached vastly exceeds the amount of ivory in the system and therefore there is a significant volume of ‘hidden’ ivory being stockpiled and / or sold by speculative investors who are banking on extinction. Speculative investment and stockpiling requires a different approach for demand reduction, this research will therefore inform the development and design of WCS China’s ivory demand reduction program.

This research is part of a larger investigation that is seeking to answer the following questions:

1.       The scale of speculative investment in ivory in China

2.       What the primary driver of the recent poaching increase is related to – small scale retail purchases or large scale investment stockpiling

3.       The types of people who are investing in ivory as an asset

4.       What would effectively reduce / minimize / eliminate speculative investment in ivory

5.       Will a policy message that talks about a temporary moratorium on ivory trade encourage more stockpiling by investors?



Week 1:

Methodology and time frame outlining:

1.       potential data sources to be used

2.       agencies to be interviewed

3.       location focus and rationale for retail ivory research (i.e. city / market)

4.       retail outlets and online retail sites to be investigated

5.       team composition – if more than 1 person working on the research

6.       Rough schedule of work including number of working days, date for draft report and final report.

Week 4:

Progress report outlining data collected to date.

Week 8:

Research report in English providing the following information:

1.       Approximate amount (weight) of ivory poached from African and Asian elephant populations since 2002 and trend analysis in response to relevant factors (international ivory ban, stockpile sales, fluctuations in other investment commodities such as gold, art, property, oil price etc). This data is available from ETIS and CITES analyses.

2.       Amount (weight) of ivory held globally in:

a.       Government stockpiles of ivory

b.      retail warehouses

c.       processing warehouses

d.      large scale holdings (such as museums)

e.      shops

f.        online retailers

g.       auction houses

3.       Analysis of the variance between 1 and 2 above, speculation and evidence relating to groups / individuals holding the ivory – i.e. being stockpiled by individuals, auction houses, government agencies for future sales, held by private collectors

This research should examine all relevant data sources: including but not limited to: Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), Proportion of Illegally Killed Elephants (PIKE), Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE), customs seizure records, CITES trading permits, stockpile information reported to CITES, NGO records and investigations and the Elephant Protection initiative. Additional research from Burn R.W., Underwood F.M. & Blanc J. (2011) Global Trends and Factors Associated with the Illegal Killing of Elephants: A Hierarchical Bayesian Analysis of Carcass Encounter Data. PLoS ONE 6, e24165.  And Underwood F.M., Burn R.W. & Milliken T. (2013) Dissecting the Illegal Ivory Trade: An Analysis of Ivory Seizures Data. PLoS ONE 8, e76539 should also be used.

There have been a large number of studies to date examining the scale of the retail trade in Ivory, this project should aim to bring all the disparate sources of data together in a definitive analysis of the volume of ivory in the retail trade.


The focus of the research should be the primary markets in China, Hong Kong, and the USA – this will be a desk based survey though WCS China has human resources that can undertake ground based research in China and Hong Kong on request.


Person Specification:

WCS is looking for a skilled data analyst with an excellent understanding of data sources relating to the ivory trade, good connections with relevant government and non-government organizations and a strong understanding of international commodity trends and the ivory retail market.


 If you are interested in this opportunity or for more information please contact Rachel Hemingway on, +86 185 1065 4621



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