An old curse and addiction are at play in new debates around ivory

On Wednesday, South Africans will decide the political fate of ‘The Buffalo’. In Botswana, regional governments this week are discussing the political fate of the elephant, including bids to sell ivory. Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia have close to two-thirds of Africa’s elephants roaming within their borders, triggering human-wildlife conflict as rural subsistence farmers and swelling pachyderm populations collide. Emotions aside, it is useful to frame the issue in a wide historical context. Ivory was Africa’s original ‘resource curse’ and recent poaching trends have followed a disturbing historical pattern.