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Ivoire, de Niels Labuzan, éditions J.C. Lattès, 2019
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Ivory (“Ivoire”), by Niels Labuzan

Since a report by the IPBES (Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) revealed that a million species are now at risk of extinction, Ivory provides a “snapshot” of the tusk trafficking which is decimating elephants, raising the possibility of a world without “bans” and without “grace”, as the novel's heroine fears.

Ivoire, de Niels Labuzan, éditions J.C. Lattès, 2019 © DR
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Ivory and Colonisation

In his first novel Maps of Forgetting (“Cartographie de l’oubli”), Niels Labuzan wrote about the massacres perpetrated under the Second Reich in Namibia at the end of the 19th century. Ivory points out that colonization has often been “at the expense of elephants” — well before the manganese and uranium trades — and examines the history of Africa and its southern regions.

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A three-dimensional novel

During the preparations for an international conference on the illegal wildlife trade in Botswana, an operation aimed at exposing an ivory trafficking network is being launched, led by Erin, who manages a nature reserve, Bojosi, a former poacher turned ranger, and Seretse, an agent for the Ministry of Wildlife. Thanks to false tusks equipped with a tracking system, the team hopes to succeed in reconstructing a map of the paths followed by trafficked ivory.

While raising geopolitical and philosophical questions, Ivory manages to also read as a thriller with a strong poetic aspect.

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A voyage to the heart of Botswana

After extensive research, Niels Labuzan visited Botswana in 2017 as part of the Institut français Stendhal programme. He discovered an inspiring land, recognised for its democratic governance and transparency, which is home to and protects over 130,000 elephants. At the end of the trip, the author realised that he had not come to understand the ivory trade, but instead was driven to examine the relationship between humans and wildlife by watching elephants live on protected land.

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Preserving the world’s balance

It is estimated that there are currently less than 450,000 elephants in Africa, compared to 3 to 5 million in the early twentieth century. However, Niels Labuzan wishes to keep hope alive and highlights the measures being taken to protect wildlife. In this vein, since 2016 Botswana has been implementing an active anti-poaching policy, supported by local groups, and China banned the ivory trade in 2018.

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The Institut français and the work

Winner of an Institut français Stendhal residency in 2017, Niels Labuzan spent time in Bostwana. The Stendhal programme allows French authors or authors living in France to travel to a foreign country and work on a writing project related to that country. Learn more about the Stendhal programme.