Ivory poaching in Africa has been driven by demand from Asia with increasing number of wealthy consumers and investors. As the ivory usage is deeply rooted in Asian tradition, it is unlikely to decrease the demand by attempts to alter consumers’ preferences. In order to stop poaching we need to change mental models like Biggs et at suggested (Biggs et al. 2017, Science). However, as we live in the era of technology we should also consider the role of bio-printing. Worldwide ivory prices have fluctuated over last 30 years indicating that ivory is an investment good subject to market speculations. We argue that changing mental models combined with supply-side intervention introducing artificial ivory into the market could decrease poaching. Recently developed techniques of 3-D bio-printing are capable of producing an indistinguishable substitute of ivory with DNA of elephants.
Looking back to the XIX century, successful attempts were made to replace ivory by another material. A prize was offered for invention of an ivory substitute, leading to the development of celluloid being the first plastic. Now, in the era of innovation and technology it is about time to undertake similar unconventional actions which could affect the ivory market.
To find out more read:
Lenda M., Skórka P., Mazur B., Ward A., Wilson K. (2018). Ivory crisis: Role of bioprinting technology. Science, Vol. 360, Issue 6386, pp. 277, DOI: 10.1126/science.aat0925