Key figure in fight against ivory trade found dead

  • Key figure in fight against ivory trade found dead

Key figure in fight against ivory trade found dead

One of the world's leading investigators of the illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn has been killed in Kenya.

Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, became public enemy No. 1 for elephant ivory and rhino horn traffickers over the years as he worked to dig up dirt and expose the inner workings of the black market.

The geographer had just returned home to Kenya from a research trip to Myanmar and had been writing up his findings when he died.

In a major report a year ago from Laos, he and his colleague Lucy Vigne established that the country had the world's fastest growing ivory trade.

The former United Nations special envoy for rhino conservation had risked his life to secretly photograph and document illegal sales of ivory and rhino horns.

The American often posed as a buyer and secretly photographed illegal sales of ivory and rhino horn in China, Vietnam and Laos.

It appears to have been a botched robbery, but police are investigating whether it was linked to his work. "He was at the forefront of fighting #WildlifeCrime in exposing rhino horn & elephant ivory trade. Esmond led investigations into ivory & rhino horn trafficking", she said.

Esmond Bradley Martin was quietly spoken, but focused, energetic and utterly engaged in his life's work - collecting data on the illegal trade in wildlife. His efforts played a part in the official banning of domestic ivory sales in China in the 1990's (which took effect this year).

Ivory and rhino horn are hugely profitable with a rhino horn worth $27,000 per pound and ivory at $454 a pound.

In an interview with National Public Radio in 2007, Mr Bradley-Martin said his greatest contribution academically to conservationism would be to show that except for one small area in India, rhino horn has never been used by Asians for sexual purposes.

In the wake of Martin's death, many of his former peers and friends have come forward to remember his memory with kind words.

The 88-page report stated that 130 licensed outlets in China were slowly bringing down the amount of ivory products for display and for sale.

The crime might not be widely reported here, but it's a tragic loss for the worldwide conservationist movement.

British High Commissioner to Kenya Nic Hailey said in a Twitter post he was "shocked and very sad to hear of the death".

His life's work was combating the illegal trade of wildlife and he produced a huge body of highly respected research and investigative reports.