A team of leading international researchers is working to break the stalemate on ivory trade policy.

For decades there has been a deadlock on the controversial issue.

One side promotes regulated ivory markets as a way of raising much needed funds to fight poaching, while the other side argues that prohibiting all ivory trade is the best solution for saving elephants.

Researchers from 14 organisations including Griffith University, the University of Queensland, Oxford, Cambridge, Yale and Monash Universities have outlined their concerns and recommendations in Science today.

Lead researcher Dr Duan Biggs, of Griffith’s Environmental Futures Research Institute, said the 30-year-old deadlock on whether to trade ivory was bad for elephant conservation and wasted valuable conservation resources.

“Scientific information alone will not solve contentious issues like ivory trade,” said Dr Biggs.

“The continued polarisation of this debate stems from a failure to recognise the different moral perspectives of stakeholders.

“Identifying people’s beliefs, values and perspectives on ivory trade can help overcome the deadlock on ivory policy.”

Dr Matthew Holden, co-author from the University of Queensland, said people were more likely to unconsciously challenge information that came from someone with a different political affiliation, as seen in interpretations of climate change.

Dr Biggs said drawing on what had been learned from other polarised debates like ending armed conflict and negotiating climate change, the team had developed a process which could help stakeholders better understand each other’s perspective.

“This is vital to building trust to make informed policy decisions,” said Dr Biggs.