05 Feb 2018 Story Environmental governance

In Memoriam: Esmond Bradley-Martin, ivory trade researcher, is killed in Kenya

One of the world’s leading researchers into the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade was found dead at his Nairobi home on Sunday, multiple news outlets reported. 

Esmond Bradley-Martin, a 75-year-old American citizen, had worked for decades researching the markets for wildlife products across Africa and Asia, most recently in Myanmar. He had once served as the UN Special Envoy on rhino conservation. 

"Esmond was known for absolute rigour and painstaking precision in his methodology and reporting," said Lisa Rolls, who leads UN Environment's Wild for Life campaign. "He was always willing to lend his decades of expertise to explore approaches to tackling the illegal wildlife trade with complete objectivity. Esmond's commitment to securing a future for wild rhinos and elephants was steadfast. To lose such a gentle and wise conservationist in this way is a shocking tragedy."

Bradley-Martin's meticulous work on the dynamics of illegal wildlife markets provided countries - including China - with the hard data they needed to shut those markets down. His research also informed many of the decisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, a global agreement that regulates trade in wildlife products. 

His research, most of which was published by conservation group Save the Elephants, included a 2017 report that found that the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was home to the world's fastest-growing retail market for ivory, as well as a 2016 study that detailed how demand for ivory in Viet Nam was threatening elephants in Africa. 

Rhino
Bradley-Martin dedicated his life to investigating the trade in wildlife products, including rhino horn. (Source: Shutterstock)

"Esmond has been at the forefront of rhino horn and ivory trade research issues, gleaning much valuable information on both legal and illegal trade," said UN Environment's Maxwell Gomera. "Very few knew much about these issues better than Esmond. Even fewer have pursued these issues with such dedication and commitment. The fight to save wildlife has lost one of its most committed soldiers."

Conservationist Paula Kahumbu described Bradley-Martin as “a global authority on ivory and rhino horn trafficking”, adding that he was “at the forefront of exposing the scale of ivory markets in USA, Congo, Nigeria, Angola, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos and recently Myanmar.”

Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder of Save The Elephants, paid tribute to his longtime friend and colleague: “Esmond was one of conservation’s great unsung heroes. His meticulous work into ivory and rhino horn markets was conducted often in some of the world’s most remote and dangerous places and against intensely busy schedules that would have exhausted a man half his age... He played a key role in revealing the price of ivory in China had fallen prior to the Chinese Government committing to close its legal domestic market, and was working on important research on Myanmar when he died. He was my friend for 45 years and his loss is a terrible blow both personally and professionally.”