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A sort of consumer report for the underworld

Gerry Reilly, Senior Teaching Fellow

Faculty Blog

There are many underground markets that do not operate in a transparent manner. These exist in all nations, be they developed or developing. The people engaged in these activities circumvent the regulations that govern our markets of supply and demand.

These black markets have the power to wreak havoc globally. Tax revenues will not be collected on these activities, thus denying governments the funds to run a stable economy.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, there is little data available on these markets. However, the Havocscope website collates credible data from newspapers, academic journals and government websites. Since September 2013, Havocscope has also collected user-submitted information, in a similar way to Wikipedia. First-hand accounts of the global black market are therefore available, albeit clearly marked as such.

Havocscope data have been used in a wide range of publications such as Bloomberg News and National Geographic. All information is available for free to the public for personal use.

An example of the kind of information Havocscope collates is on ivory poaching. Recent increased demand has seen ivory prices rocket. A single male elephant’s two tusks can weigh more than 250 pounds; and a pound of ivory can fetch as much as £1,000 on the black market.

In order to satisfy this demand, poachers are now slaughtering up to 35,000 of the estimated 500,000 African elephants every year for their tusks, leaving behind abandoned elephant calves. If demand remains high, the current rate of poaching will mean that elephants will not exist in Africa in 12 years’ time.