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This is because wholesale speculators might have an incentive to hoard ivory now until some discreet point in the future when the ban is lifted.
However, it did not explicitly indicate how long the ban would be in place for.
With the potential stockpiling in mind, we proposed to use game theory to understand what the optimal strategic responses from the authorities might be.
One way to mitigate the risk elephants are facing due to demand for their ivory is to reduce that demand – such campaigns are crucial in the fight against poaching, and domestic ivory trade bans can complement these campaigns.
At the South African Institute of International Affairs, we promoted the indefinite imposition of a domestic ivory trade ban in the run-up to the 17th Conference of the Parties (Co P17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 2016.
Along with a number of other organizations, we appear to have been successful at convincing the Chinese authorities to recognize that a domestic ban is necessary.
Bans like this make demand reduction campaigns credible, but they are only effective under certain conditions.
If they believe that they will not be able to sell their stock (and thus beat inflation) for a decent price, they might decide to sell immediately.
This could trigger a fire sale, where no private speculator wants to be the last to sell worthless stock.
In the course of conducting research into natural resource governance, I started to see the devastation of elephants through poaching, habitat contraction and fragmentation, and other factors.
Because the ivory trade is a predominantly clandestine activity, little reliable data is available to help us ascertain how prices are formed.