Coveted since prehistory for its beauty and scarcity, ivory was the master carver's medium in cultures from ancient Egypt to the industrializing United States. It was used for sacred amulets, classical nudes, Japanese netsuke, piano keys, and billiard balls.
By the 19th century ivory had become the plastic of its age and the subject of a global addiction that drove the exploration and exploitation of Africa at great human and animal cost. It was taken to the coasts on the shoulders of slaves who were then sold along with the tusks they carried, and insatiable demand led to the wholesale slaughter of elephants. By the 1980s, organized poaching reached record levels in East Africa, provoking an international outcry that led to an ivory trade ban still in effect today.
But as long as there are elephants, there will be ivory, and the question of what to do with the lustrous material is at the heart of a heated and ongoing international debate. In this richly detailed narrative, John Frederick Walker examines both ivory's past and its uncertain future - and the future of elephants themselves.
If you could sum up Ivory's Ghosts in three words, what would they be?
What other book might you compare Ivory's Ghosts to and why?
I was surprised at how many similarities the Ivory trade has to the illicit drug trade.
What does David Colacci bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
The narrator was efficient.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
I enjoyed the stories of some of the old tuskers and even old-time hunters.
Any additional comments?
This book seemed to be an interesting blend of the history of the ivory trade and an analysis of the pro and con of different ways of addressing elephant conservation. Early on I found it a bit tedious to slog through all the details of the ivory trading statistics, but later when he got into a discussion about the pro and con of different management strategies, I thought the book really picked up steam. I felt the author was not faction driven as is so often the case when it comes to the management of elephants. He genuinely seemed like a scholar intent or educating people about the issues and history. Overall, it was a worthwhile listen.