Video: Ivory Trade and Slave Trade Linked Throughout History

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The trade in elephant ivory dates at least back to the days of the slave trade in Africa.

Investigative Journalist Bryan Christy visits the home of renowned 19th Century slave trader and ivory merchant Tippu Tip in Zanzibar. “Throughout history, human trafficking and ivory trafficking have been linked,” Christy says in this outtake from the National Geographic Explorer show “Warlords of Ivory.”

Photograph courtesy of Ivoryton Library Association

“This is an extraordinary moment for me,” Christy says. “This is the house of a man named Tippu Tip, an Arab slave trader and ivory trader operating just 150 years ago here in Zanzibar. One of the biggest ivory traders in the world, one of the biggest slave traders in the world, this man was a terrorist. This man trafficked tens of thousands of human beings through this building every year.”

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A group of men sit atop a pile of ivory tusks, Zanzibar, early 1900s. Photograph by Carl E. Akely/National Geographic Creative.

Tippu Tip trafficked ivory no longer seen today, tusks that took four people to carry, Christy notes. “Those elephants are gone.”

“We don’t call it slave trade, any more; we call it human trafficking,” Christy says. “We call it ivory trafficking. And it still exists today. History has repeated itself. The same places where this man brought slaves and ivory out of Africa is now under siege by rebel groups, by terrorists, by ivory traffickers.”

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