Why were Europeans interested in ivory?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Europeans were interested in the ivory trade because ivory was considered an exotic item. As such, it could command a hefty price and the demand for the item was high amongst the wealthy. When considering these economic variables, it is easy to see that the profit was great in the trade of ivory. Ivory was used to make jewelry, piano keys, religious relics, and common household items like brushes and mirrors. While other materials could be used to produce all of these items, ivory was seen as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. In this way, ivory was as coveted as much as gold and silver.

The ivory trade has had a devastating effect on the African elephant. There has been a shift in demand from Europe to East Asia, but the results are the same. Millions of elephants roamed the plains of Africa as late as the early Twentieth Century. Today there are under five hundred thousand. The precarious position of the elephant has resulted in an international ban on the trade in ivory.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial