Russia fact of the day

by on February 13, 2016 at 2:44 am in Data Source, Economics, History, Law, Science | Permalink

Russian mammoth ivory exports have been increasing steadily, averaging approximately 17 tonnes per year for 1991-2000 and averaging 60 tonnes per year for 2001-2013.

It is estimated that the mammoth ivory beneath the tundra has the potential to cover several hundred years’ worth of current elephant ivory sales.

That is from the Farah and Boyce paper cited here.

1 Nathan W February 13, 2016 at 4:11 am

I am optimistic that Asians will become broadly aware of the fact that this ivory is chemically identical to finger nails, and that they will stop buying it without any need to extensively mine mammoth ivory.

2 Chuck February 13, 2016 at 4:37 am

Can’t wait for those finger nail piano keys.

3 Nathan W February 13, 2016 at 8:38 am

I think I’m partly confusing this with demand for rhino horn, which is more related to medicinal uses.

4 Bill Rich February 13, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Ivory is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as well, but the amount used for medicinal purposes is relative small compared with use of ivory for carving (art objects), and utensils (chop sticks). rhino horns are used for medicinal purposes in China, but, again, the amount is small (a bit more than ivory) compared with use as art objects (dagger handles) in the middle east. Rhinos in Asia were hunted to extinction except in very small pockets in Indonesia.

5 So Much For Subtlety February 13, 2016 at 5:03 am

I am not. For one thing, it is not. Ivory is a type of tooth. Which consists of various calcium salts. Finger nails and hair is mainly made up of keratin – which is a type of protein. Rhino horns are also keratin.

However it is unlikely to make a difference. Coke made from coal, the lead in a pencil and diamonds are all more or less the same substance. But I don’t think a girlfriend is going to accept a graphite ring with pleasure.

6 Nathan W February 13, 2016 at 8:47 am

Correct. And I agree about the rest entirely.

7 Nathan W February 13, 2016 at 6:33 pm

Last I said you were right, you twisted it into an insult.

And now you’re asking for eloquent agreement? I reiterate what i said after last time i said you were right.

I was thinking of rhino horn uses, when in fact the discussion is ivory. But in fact the uses overlap a bit and I didn’t actually say anything stupid or incorrect.

Man, it is pathetic the way you are on my case sometimes.

8 Nathan W February 13, 2016 at 6:36 pm

Hey, you’re wrong about a lot of things. But usually you just insult people who point it out rather than accepting a correction.

HAHA. And you want me to be gracious? Given what an ass you generally are and how generally off the mark you are in loads of things, I thought it was quite gracious to point out that you were right in the first place.

I already promised never to point out that you’re right again. Someone it makes you even more of an ass.

9 Cass1an February 13, 2016 at 5:31 am

You’re confusing ivory with rhino horns. Horns are keratin, ivory is tooth (dentine).

Bioengineering both should be easier than resurrecting productive animals in case of extinction. It’s strange why no one came up with flooding the market with fake rhino horns. If you collaborate with good chemists, you can make perfect cheap replica and if you then collaborate with good economists, you can make it a “market for lemons”.

10 Nathan W February 13, 2016 at 8:48 am

Nice to be corrected without a litany of personal attacks to accompany it. Thank you.

11 Mitch Berkson February 13, 2016 at 9:23 am

“3D-Printed Rhino Horns Are Not the Solution to the Poaching Crisis, Experts Say”:

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/3d-printed-rhino-horns-are-not-the-solution-to-the-poaching-crisis-experts-say

12 Cass1an February 13, 2016 at 3:19 pm

“Conservation groups are concerned that any action to legitimize the trade will increase demand for the real product, leading to more poached rhinos”
“Matthew Markus, a biologist and co-founder of Pembient, disagrees, citing how fake fur has played a role in demand reduction for the real thing, coal oil saved the whale, and fake Christmas trees have become the norm.”
So some experts say it is not a perfect solution yet and other “experts” are deontological wackos.
Problems with genetic testing are legit, but if the thing can pass spectroscopy, it will be enough to affect the market. History of food adulteration shows that even when testing is possible, once it is costly enough, customer always can be swindled. And that’s what we want – not fooling the triads (they can install quality control they like if it’s lucrative enough), but fooling the end customer.

13 John Smith February 13, 2016 at 11:13 pm

Traditional Chinese Medicine do not accept such scientific concepts, therefore it is irrelevant to the end-users. TCM is based on concepts which is partly mythical in nature and non-science based.

14 Jan February 13, 2016 at 4:53 am
15 Ray Lopez February 13, 2016 at 5:22 am

I wish they would clone mammoths, it would be cool. And bring back the American Passenger Pigeon.

16 Ronald Brak February 13, 2016 at 7:19 am

I’m willing to contribute to any project working to create a pigeon that can carry a passenger.

17 Cass1an February 14, 2016 at 5:45 am

It would be American Carrier Pigeon. Passenger pigeon is good only for reproducing certain song by Iggy Pop.

18 Ronald Brak February 14, 2016 at 6:05 am

I don’t care. Any pigeon that can carry an average American as a passenger is going to be one hell of a bird.

19 chuck martel February 13, 2016 at 9:03 am

The mammoths are already extinct so they’re not being killed for their tusks. Why would anyone care if the tusks are dug up and sold, like coal or jade? Are the alternatives leaving them in situ or government confiscation? If they’re on private property why wouldn’t they belong to the owner, to be disposed of as he wishes?

20 Logro February 13, 2016 at 10:36 am

I believe, and I’ll try attempt as much charity as possible, that the anti-mammoth ivory trade position can be stated as (1) it depletes potentially scientifically significant resources for commercial use, and (2) it keeps open a market for ivory in which elephant ivory may find its way thus providing an incentive for poaching. Pretty standard instance of the hegemonic BBGG (business bad/government good) world view.

21 JWatts February 13, 2016 at 11:43 am

Yes, those seem to be the most common comments. But they seem to be pretty weak arguments.

22 chuck martel February 13, 2016 at 11:53 am

” it depletes potentially scientifically significant resources for commercial use”
How much more knowledge of the physical characteristics of mammoths needs to be known? Why would dubious scientific interest be of greater merit than commercial activity?

23 Rahul February 13, 2016 at 12:26 pm

“…..there may be as many as 150 million dead mammoths frozen beneath the Siberian tundra just waiting to be dug up”

That sounds like a lot to affect any scientific significance.

24 Mark Thorson February 13, 2016 at 10:52 am

It isn’t a perfect substitute for elephant ivory. Mammoth ivory is rather brownish-yellow, while elephant ivory is white. The Chinese like it white.

25 JWatts February 13, 2016 at 11:44 am

Good point. It would still drive the price down some and act to protect living elephants, but it won’t be as effective.

26 Rahul February 13, 2016 at 12:23 pm

So why is it commanding a higher price than elephant ivory?

27 Rahul February 13, 2016 at 12:23 pm

Isn’t there a contradiction here? Can a higher priced good reduce the demand for a lower priced substitute?

Fact-1: “mammoth ivory can command a much higher price than elephant ivory and sells for as much as £330 per kilogram.”

Fact-2: “This may in the long run lower elephant ivory prices “

28 JWatts February 13, 2016 at 1:14 pm

From the abstract: “Our empirical analysis finds that absent the eighty tonnes of Russian
mammoth ivory exports per annum 2010-2012 … and reduced elephant ivory prices by $100 per kilogram.”

Rahul: “Can a higher priced good reduce the demand for a lower priced substitute?”

Sure, particularly if the lower priced substitute is illegal. People will pay a higher price to reduce risk, or conversely demand a lower price for the riskier illegal good. The biggest issue I find is that the two goods aren’t necessarily direct substitutes, per Mark Thorson’s post.

29 Cliff February 13, 2016 at 1:16 pm

If some of the people buying mammoth ivory would otherwise buy elephant ivory

30 Hazel Meade February 13, 2016 at 12:51 pm

I have this strange feeling of deja-vu ….

31 JWatts February 13, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Tyler is posting a second factoid from the same paper. He even links to the previous post above.

32 Chip February 13, 2016 at 6:20 pm

Where are the Alaskan and Canadian mammoth hunters?

33 Dr. Locketopus February 16, 2016 at 1:40 am

They exist. You can buy mammoth jewelry and trinkits off the shelf in Anchorage.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/science/2006-05-30-wooly-mammoth-trinkets_x.htm

34 mkt42 February 16, 2016 at 5:13 am

Although I can’t find them now, I think I recall reading several news articles in the 1990s about how South Africa (or maybe it was Zimbabwe) had a surplus of elephants because private ranches plus programs to give local villagers incentives to live with the elephants instead of killing them had been so successful. I.e. semi-privatizing and commoditizing elephants.

So maybe my memory is wrong, but even if so, wouldn’t permitting the legalized production and sale of elephant ivory provide large incentives for the elephant ranchers to preserve their elephants?

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