Even though trading ivory is heavily restricted and even banned in most parts of the world that does not stop other people from buying and selling it anyway - making it widespread even if it isn't exactly legal. The reason why ivory trade is strongly controlled is because the animals which serve as sources of this material - specifically the elephants have become greatly endangered.

Ivory comes from the animals' teeth (and in the elephant's case, its tusks) and are used for all sorts of things from religious artifacts to various works of art. In short, ivory is a highly precious material which costs a lot of money. However, it turned out that obtaining it by means of elephant poaching costs an awful of money as well.

A study composed of several scientists including Dr. Robin Naidoo of the World Wide Fund (WWF) found out that a whopping 32 million Australian dollars(or an estimated 20 million pounds) is lost in the tourism revenue every year because of elephant poaching. This was reported in a journal named Nature Communications. Traveller reported that it is the first time this kind of initiative has been carried out - assessing just how much elephant poaching has impacted tourism that spanned continents.

Dr. Robin Naidoo of WWF who is the lead author of study said, "While there have always been strong moral and ethical reasons for conserving elephants, not everyone shares this viewpoint. Our research now shows that investing in elephant conservation is actually smart economic policy for many African countries."

The study also found that around 20,000 - 30,000 African elephants are killed by poachers in order to sufficiently supply the demand for ivory in Asian countries; most especially in China. A fifth of the population of African elephants has died over the last 10 years because of the ivory trade and elephant population in the continent has dwindled massively - mainly because of this.

One of the findings of the research was that, "tourism revenue lost because of poaching exceeds the anti-poaching costs necessary to halt the decline of elephants in East, South and West Africa." According to the experts behind the study, it made good sense economically to invest in elephant conservation across the regions where the animals subsist. They said, "For example, for every dollar invested in protecting elephants in East Africa, you get about 1.78 dollars back. That's a great deal."

Professor Andrew Balmford, who is from Cambridge University's Department of Zoology who co-authored the research said, "We know that within parks, tourism suffers when elephant poaching ramps up. This work provides a first estimate of the scale of that loss, and shows pretty convincingly that stronger conservation efforts usually make sound economic sense even when looking at just this one benefit stream."

from BBC Earth: Heartbreaking Truth About Elephant Poaching - This Wild Life