Poaching elephants for their ivory is profitable because the price of ivory has risen from about $50 per kilo to nearly $300 per kilo. Around 94% of all the ivory being traded internationally if from poached elephants. Around 20% of ivory in "legal" when it leaves Africa because governments legalize poached ivory when it is confiscated. The remaining 80% in laundered into the "legal" ivory system so that by the time carved ivory reaches the streets of Hong Kong legal and illegal ivory are indistinguishable.
From 1979 to 1987, 6,828 tonnes of ivory were exported from Africa representing from 680,000 to 760,000 elephants, which may be a low estimate. The biggest importers are Japan, with nearly 40% of the trade, Singapore, Hong Kong and Belgium. From 1973 to 1982, 300 tonnes of ivory were exported from Burundi to Belgium, representing the death of 25,000 elephants in neighbouring Zaire and Tanzania, the countries of origin of the tusks.