Esmond Bradley Martin

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Esmond Bradley Martin
Born(1941-04-17)April 17, 1941
New York City, United States
DiedFebruary 4, 2018(2018-02-04) (aged 76)
Nairobi, Kenya
Cause of deathStabbing
EducationBrooks School (Class of 1959)

University of Arizona - Bachelor of Science (1964)

University of Liverpool - Master of Arts (1966)

University of Liverpool - Doctor of Philosophy (1970) [1]
Alma materBrooks School

University of Arizona

University of Liverpool

Esmond Bradley Martin (17 April 1941[2] – 4 February 2018[3]) was an American conservationist who fought for both the preservation of elephants against the illegal ivory trade, and for the rhinoceros against the illegal trade of rhinoceros horns.[4] A trained geographer, Martin was considered a world-renowned expert in the ivory trade and rhinoceros horn trade.[5] He had been a special envoy of the United Nations for the conservation of rhinoceros.[6] Militant for a reduction in the demand for ivory to dry up the market, he participated notably in the stop of rhinoceros horn trade to China in 1993 and ivory in 2017.[7]

Martin was found dead on 4 February 2018 with a stab wound to his neck in Nairobi, Kenya, aged 76.[3][5]

Life and Career[edit]

Esmond was born in New York City on April 17, 1941. He was the great-grandson of 19th century steel magnate Henry Phipps.[8] Martin attended Brooks School, in North Andover, MA and graduated in 1959. He then earned a bachelor of science degree in geography from the University of Arizona in 1964, followed by a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Liverpool in 1970.[9]

In the mid-1970s, Martin and his wife, Chryssee Martin, settled in Nairobi, Kenya, and began studying and publishing books, researching a wide variety of historical and anthropological subjects.

In 1979, Martin discovered his true calling: he was asked by the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources if you could help them quantify the traffic in elephant ivory. His first investigation of the ivory trade appeared in December 1979.[8] The rest of his career was dedicated to animal conservation research with an emphasis on ivory and rhino horn.

Ivory Trade Research[edit]

From the late 1970s until 2018, Martin traveled extensively took great risk to gather data surrounding the ivory trade. He would often go deep undercover, meticulously documenting and photographing illegal sales of ivory and rhino horn, all in secret to the surrounding merchants.[9] Sharply dressed, Martin would hide in plain sight as an affluent shopper for illicit ivory and rhino horn, and went undercover to gain information about the illegal wildlife trade.[10] Through this persona, he was able to gain intel surrounding the practices of these traders.

Martin served as the United Nations special envoy for rhino conservation.[8]

In the 1990s he spent a year undercover posing as an ivory dealer, collecting data on how the price of ivory grew from $20 per kilogram that the poachers received, to almost $600 per kilogram in China at the end of the trade line.[9] Between that is a dense line of middlemen earning major profits off of extinction. In the undercover process, Martin exposed an Italian diplomat (who smuggled ivory by hiding it in dog meat) and an Indonesian ambassador among other high ranking officials corruptly involved in the trade.[9]

An anecdotal achievement by Martin was debunking the myth that rhino horn was used by Asian buyers for sexual purposes, which is incorrect.[9] Rather, it was primary used for traditional medicine such as lowering fever, making dagger handles in Yemen, and more recently, as a party drug when mixed with cocaine. While it is still a widespread myth that rhino horn has health benefits, the reality is that rhino horn is made of keratin, the same material of fingernails, and has no properties other than as a placebo effect or a symbol of buying power.[11]

Martin’s research primarily focused on curbing the demand of these products. He was instrumental in stopping the rhinoceros horn trade in China in 1993,[12] and then the ivory trade in China in 2017.[10] While other leaders were more tepid about making these items illegal, Martin stood for a total ban of wildlife products as the solution for saving these animals, despite their still drastically decreasing numbers.

Other contributions Martin made to this field included: highlighting increased demand for rhino horn in Yemen in 2008, showing the drop in Japanese demand for ivory in 2010, detailing a burgeoning ivory trade in Hong Kong in 2011, and explaining the reduction in rhino poaching in Nepal in 2013. His final published research documented how Laos’s and Vietnam’s ivory markets are booming.


On February 4, 2018, Martin was found dead with a stab wound to his neck at his home in Nairobi. He was 76 years old. He was survived by his wife and longtime research partner Chryssee Martin. Martin had recently returned from a trip to Myanmar[12] and was writing a report on his findings about ivory trafficking there. Local police reports deemed this murder a “robbery gone wrong.”[10] However, nothing was stolen. Martin’s research actively threatened the illicit organizations that profited from wildlife trafficking; therefore his effective muckraking likely made him a target to these criminal organizations, though the case is not closed as of April 2019.

Public Reaction[edit]

Conservationist and WildifeDirect CEO Dr. Paula Kahumbu tweeted:

"It is with deep shock & horror that we learn this morning of the death of long time conservationist, Esmond Bradley Martin, whom police say died in suspicious circumstances st his home in Karen, Nairobi. Esmond led investigations into ivory & rhino horn trafficking.[13] Esmond was at the forefront of exposing the scale of ivory markets in USA, Congo, Nigeria, Angola, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos and recently Myanmar. He always collaborated with Save the Elephants and worked with many of us generously sharing his findings & views.[14] Esmond was a global authority on ivory and rhino horn trafficking. We send our deepest condolences to his wife. RIP Esmond, pachyderms have lost a great [champion].[15]


Martin was extensively involved in publishing academic writings, below is an incomplete list of Martin's work.


  • Quest for the Past: An Historical Guide to Lamu, Kenya 1970
  • The History of Malindi: A Geographical Analysis of an East African Coastal Town from the Portuguese period to the present, 1973
    Zanzibar: Tradition and Revolution, 1978
  • Oman: A Seafaring Nation, 1979
  • Cargoes of the East: The Ports, Trade, and Culture of the Arabian Seas and Western Indian Ocean, 1978 (co-authored with his wife, Chryssee Martin)
  • The International Trade in Rhinoceros Products, 1979
  • Run Rhino Run, 1983 (co-authored with Chryssee Martin)
  • Rhino Exploitation: The Trade in Rhino Products in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, Japan, and South Korea (1983), World Wildlife Fund
  • The Japanese Ivory Industry (1985)

Scientific Reports[edit]

Ivory and Rhino Horn Related Reports[edit]

  • Religion, Royalty, and Rhino Conservation in Nepal (1985)[16]
  • On A Knife’s Edge: Rhinoceros Horn Trade in Yemen (1997)[17]
  • The Ivory Markets of Africa (2000) (co-authored with Daniel Stiles, published by Save the Elephants)[18]
  • The Ivory Markets of East Asia (2003) (co-authored with Daniel Stiles)[19]
  • The Ivory Markets of Europe (2005) (co-authored with Daniel Stiles)[20]
  • No Oasis: The Egyptian Ivory Trade in 2005 (2005) (co-authored with Tom Milliken)[21]
  • Ivory Markets in the USA (2008) (co-authored with Daniel Stiles)[22]
  • The Ivory Dynasty: A report on the soaring demand for elephant and mammoth ivory in Southern China (2010) (co-authored with Lucy Vigne)[23]
  • Hong Kong’s Ivory: More Items for sale than any other city in the world (2015) (co-authored with Lucy Vigne)[24]
  • Vietnam’s illegal Ivory trade threatens Africa’s Elephants (2016) (co-authored with Lucy Vigne)[25]
  • The Ivory Trade of Laos: Now the Fastest Growing in the World (2017) (co-authored with Lucy Vigne)[26]
  • Decline in the Legal Ivory Trade in China in Anticipation of a Ban (2017) (co-authored with Lucy Vigne)[27]

Non-Ivory Related Reports[edit]

  • A Quantitative Assessment of the Arab Slave Trade of East Africa (1977)[8]

See also[edit]

  • Wayne Lotter, South African wildlife conservationist involved in stopping ivory traffickers, also murdered


  1. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Diluglio, Thomas (2018-02-07). "ESMOND BRADLEY-MARTIN". Thomas Diluglio. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  3. ^ a b "Esmond Bradley Martin: Ivory investigator killed in Kenya". BBC News. 5 February 2018. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  4. ^ Thompkins, Gwen (29 December 2007). "African Ivory Headed for One-Time Auction". NPR. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Un expert du trafic d'ivoire assassiné au Kenya" [Ivory trafficking expert murdered in Kenya]. Le Monde (in French). 5 February 2018. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  6. ^ "United Nations Environment Programme, Esmond Bradley-Martin". 5 February 2018.
  7. ^ Maina, Kamore; Muchangi, John (5 February 2018). "Top ivory investigator Esmond Martin killed in Nairobi". The Star. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d "Who killed ivory trade investigator Esmond Martin, why?".
  9. ^ a b c d e "Esmond Bradley Martin made a long list of enemies in his fight against poaching". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2018-02-07. Retrieved 2019-04-16.
  10. ^ a b c Wootson Jr., Cleve (February 5, 2018). "An American spent decades exposing the ivory trade. He was just found dead in his home". The Washington Post.
  11. ^ "U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Facts about Rhino Horn" (PDF).
  12. ^ a b "Top ivory investigator stabbed to death". 2018-02-05. Retrieved 2019-04-17.
  13. ^ "Twitter - Paula Kahumbu".
  14. ^ "Twitter - Dr. Paula Kahumbu".
  15. ^ "Twitter - Paula Kahumbu".
  16. ^ Martin, Esmond Bradley (April 2019). "Religion, royalty and rhino conservation in Nepal" (PDF). Cambridge University.
  17. ^ Martin, Esmond Bradley (April 2019). "On a Knife's Edge: The Rhinoceros Horn Trade in Yemen" (PDF). Traffic Network.
  18. ^ "The Ivory Markets of Africa" (PDF). Save the Elephants.
  19. ^ "The Ivory Markets of East Asia" (PDF). Save the Elephants.
  20. ^ "The Ivory Markets of Europe" (PDF). Save the Elephants.
  21. ^ "NO OASIS: the Egyptian ivory trade in 2005" (PDF). Traffic.
  22. ^ "Ivory Markets in the U.S.A." (PDF). Save the Elephants.
  23. ^ "The Ivory Dynasty: A report on the soaring demand for elephant and mammoth ivory in Southern China" (PDF). London, Elephant Family, The Aspinall Foundation and Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
  24. ^ "Hong Kong's Ivory: More Items for sale than any other city in the world" (PDF). Save the Elephants.
  25. ^ "Vietnam's illegal Ivory trade threatens Africa's Elephants" (PDF). Save the Elephants.
  26. ^ "The Ivory Trade of Laos: Now the Fastest Growing in the World" (PDF). Save the Elephants.
  27. ^ "Decline in the Legal Ivory Trade in China in Anticipation of a Ban" (PDF). Save the Elephants.