Banning Ivory Will Not Save The Elephants

 

shutterstock_277259801Several years ago, my wife and I enjoyed a photo safari in Tanzania. I took nearly 1,500 photos, mostly of animals on the Serengeti, and I periodically scroll through my photo files, marveling at the grandeur of Africa. By far, the most majestic and awe inspiring animals that we encountered were the elephants. We were fortunate to get up close and personal with the herds and — on one occasion — our vehicles were challenged by a huge bull who was not amused by our presence.

These wonderful creatures are being slaughtered because they carry a valuable commodity — ivory — which has always been in great demand. At one time, there was a huge population of African elephants, so their hunting was not necessarily the evil it is today. Fortunately, elephant ivory is no longer used for consumer items such as billiard balls, piano keys, jewelry, and other utilitarian objects. It may have an incidental use for musical instruments and the like but — as with animal fur — its use is no longer commonly accepted.

Whether the number of animals illegally killed each year is in the dozens or the thousands, poaching is a despicable act. Though laws are in place to control this criminal enterprise and punish offenders, the Chinese are not convinced and account for the overwhelming majority of demand for illegal ivory. So, U.S. authorities have decided to work backwards and pick on the uninformed, easily influenced, and easily controlled Americans citizens.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reasons we can save elephant lives by preventing — a handful of exceptions aside — the trade in all ivory items in this country, be it from elephants killed last week or over a thousand years ago. They reason that a person who buys a medieval ivory carving is threatening the existence of elephants in Africa. In a sham show of concern, they’ve publicly crushed tons of confiscated ivory without regard to its age, legality, or even — allegedly — if it was from African elephants at all. The net result of this theater has been to raise the black market price of ivory and to further encourage poaching.

The Administration decided that a more theatrical method of saving elephant lives would be to eliminate the trade in all ivory and turning honest citizens into felons. They are starting with a ban on all imports of ivory (previously legal with documentation) and the interstate sale of any product containing ivory. There is an exception for antiques, but the bar of proof is set at ridiculously high levels which makes it nearly impossible for the average person to comply.

Was there a vote in Congress on this mindless regulation? Nope. It is just another example of overreach by bureaucrats at the urging of an imperial president.

It is important to note that not all ivory was or is obtained through poaching. Before the advent of high-powered rifles, most ivory was available from animals that died from old age, disease, or predation. Hunting an elephant was once a dangerous activity, so the preferred method was to harvest the remains of the tens of thousands of already-dead animals. Such remains are still available in massive quantities, but the armchair environmentalists feel it is necessary to pressure African countries to destroy — rather than sell — confiscated fresh ivory or huge amounts of dead ivory. The proceeds of the sale of that ivory could finance enforcement of anti-poaching laws that have universal acceptance.

Indeed, most valuable ivory in this country is centuries old. Not only are beautiful ivory pieces in museums and important private collections, but ivory can also be found in jewelry, musical instruments, furniture, decorative objects, scrimshaw, cutlery, weaponry, medical instruments, pool cues and much more. Please tell me how a ban on the sale of a half-millennia-old ivory statue or a 18th century mandolin can save the life of a single elephant in Africa in 2015 ?

African countries don’t have the resources to put a stop to the slaughter of elephants, but the rest of the world surely does. Banning the sale of antique ivory will do absolutely nothing to stop poaching, but it will certainly create chaos in some segments of the economy.

The cost of enforcement has been hidden from the Congress, and the people, to the extent they care, and will be huge. There are literally tens — if not hundreds — of millions of ivory articles in the hands of antique dealers, collectors and the average citizen. These objects will be sold in contravention of the ridiculous laws set by the USFWS, thus turning honest citizens into felons. In typical fashion, New York and California are leading the anti-ivory parade. Soon it might be illegal to even own a piece of ivory in those states.

Laws and treaties are already in place to combat the illegal ivory trade, but they haven’t been successful because governments lack the willingness to enforce those laws (sound familiar?) so they target otherwise law-abiding people. And I can’t help but shake the feeling that — for anyone contemplating an eventual weapons ban — this could serve as a useful walkthrough.

There are 33 comments.

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  1. raycon and lindacon Inactive
    raycon and lindacon
    @rayconandlindacon

    We thought that this was going to be yet another diatribe against Donald Trump.

    Sorry.

    • #1
  2. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    adobejoe: The Administration decided that a more theatrical method of saving elephant lives would be to persecute American citizens by eliminating the trade in all ivory and turning honest citizens into felons. They are starting with a ban on all imports of ivory (previously legal with documentation) and the interstate sale of any product containing ivory. There is an exception for antiques, but the bar of proof is set at ridiculously high levels which makes it nearly impossible for the average person to comply.

    Most valuable ivory in this country is centuries old. Not only are beautiful ivory pieces in museums and important private collections, but ivory can also be found in jewelry, musical instruments, furniture, decorative objects, scrimshaw, cutlery, weaponry, medical instruments, pool cues and much more. Please tell me how a ban on the sale of a five hundred year old ivory statue or a 18th century mandolin can save the life of a single elephant in Africa in 2015 ?

    Every now and then I get a glimpse at how depraved our government has become and I think there is no hope. It just needs to be shut down.

    Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros is closer to the reality of human existence than a rational person would ever believe.

    • #2
  3. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    There are some endangered species of whales. I suppose the scrimshaw museums on Nantucket will have to be razed to the ground.

    • #3
  4. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Will I soon be considered a law breaker? I own a pair of ivory chopsticks given to me by a friend in NYC 1957. I have no paper work to prove it.

    • #4
  5. Herbert Woodbery Inactive
    Herbert Woodbery
    @Herbert

    So what’s the answer? Can new ivory be easily distinguished from old Ivory? If trade is allowed only on old stuff, doesn’t thar just drive price up?

    • #5
  6. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Musicians traveling with instruments containing ivory risk confiscation. My violin bow probably has an ivory tip, it is about the size of a thumb nail.

    I often wonder what will happen if I travel.

    Stupid regulations. You’re right: all the ancient ivory is irrelevant.

    • #6
  7. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    with 1500 pix in your stash, I thought you might have shared one on this post. Not too late…

    :)

    • #7
  8. John Penfold Member
    John Penfold
    @IWalton

    Common if you can’t do something positive do something stupid and harmful, like taking  away the value of the animals to everyone.  If folks wanted to protect the elephants they might consider selling licenses to hunt and harvest, allow all new and old  ivory to enter the market and keep the price down but the value up.  But you can’t do that, some people would feel bad about it.

    • #8
  9. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Herbert Woodbery:So what’s the answer?Can new ivory be easily distinguished from old Ivory? If trade is allowed only on old stuff, doesn’t thar just drive price up?

    My chopsticks have turned a bit yellowish from a cream color. I have no idea how old they were before given to me.

    • #9
  10. adobejoe Member
    adobejoe
    @JosephMoure

    It is very difficult to differentiate between old ivory and newer ivory. It is certainly beyond the capability of any USFWS agent. Several entities are working on scientific methods of determining age, but it has to be non-destructive and cheap.

    Most art pieces are distinguished by style, wear, patina, etc. but those things can be duplicated by a talented forger. There is not a big market for a lot of antique ivory. The contemporary buyer seems to be interested in extravagant, complicated pieces supplied by Chinese workshops.

    The USFWS is way off base. All of the elephant ivory in the Americas has been imported at one time or another – going back almost 450 years. So there are an awful lot of future felons out there.

    Interestingly, even a fully documented, antique ivory sculpture that has had the tip of the nose or a pinky finger repaired with an undocumented chip of ivory would be subject to confiscation and the seller prosecuted if it were to be sold interstate or in California or New York.

    • #10
  11. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The ruthless and mindless application of ticky-tacky rules is one of the core competencies of all bureaucracies. The only other one is self-preservation.

    If this was done without a law, it can be dispensed with without a law. It would be better to pass legislation and provide some defense for legitimate ivory ownership.

    • #11
  12. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    At risk of alerting government ninnies, here’s a knife that has been in my family for generations. We don’t know where it was acquired or even what world region it originates from. Southeast Asia? The Middle East? If anyone can solve our little riddle, the Ricochet community can. Any guesses?

    20150914_100928 20150914_100952 20150914_101009

    • #12
  13. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    These provisions of the Endangered Species Act puzzle me. It falls to the countries who host species to declare them endangered and do something about it if they wish. The attempt to extend the reach of US law to affect behavior in foreign countries is arrogant. As with the Gibson Guitar travesty, a well-meaning but misguided law, full of unintended consequences, will be used to selectively prosecute Americans to no useful end.

    • #13
  14. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    A common practice with elk hunters is to pull the ‘ivories’ out. I have 3 or 4 sets of them. There are jewelers that will take them and make jewelry out of them, earrings, cuff links, pendants, etc. I wonder if that is now illegal?

    The USFWS is suppose to exist for hunters and sportsmen, but over the last 30 years they have been taken over by the far Left. No real surprises with this move. Common sense and practical economics is not the point–punishing Americans and American hunters is.

    • #14
  15. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Aaron Miller: Any guesses?

    Looks more oriental to me, Japanese? Chinese?

    • #15
  16. Cunctator Member
    Cunctator
    @

    Huh,I never thought about my bow tip.  My uncle’s pipe band stopped travelling to the USA because of these laws; nobody wanted to have their instrument confiscated, and they weren’t going to “rent” pipes in the states

    • #16
  17. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    Aren’t there a lot of walrus ivory pieces around?  How do we tell the difference?

    • #17
  18. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    I think walrus ivory is marked with “koo koo kachoo” somewhere.

    • #18
  19. rico Inactive
    rico
    @rico

    It is not uncommon for professional musicians who have ornamental ivory on their instruments to preemptively replace the ivory with plastic. This is an unfortunate necessity if one is to fully mitigate the risk of having one’s instrument confiscated by an adventure-seeking customs agent.

    • #19
  20. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Aaron Miller:I think walrus ivory is marked with “koo koo kachoo” somewhere.

    The joker is laughing at you.  Good one.

    • #20
  21. adobejoe Member
    adobejoe
    @JosephMoure

    An experienced person can tell the difference between walrus ivory and elephant ivory, but A USFWS agent probably couldn’t. Even if they could differentiate, they would probably prefer to err on the side of caution and confiscate the item.

    • #21
  22. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    There are a whole lot of antique Steinways in concert halls, universities, churches and homes. I think this is a job for the Ivory Gestapo. Hunt them all down and destroy those pianos before they can harm another elephant!

    • #22
  23. Jordan Wiegand Inactive
    Jordan Wiegand
    @Jordan

    No but it makes us feel good about ourselves.

    Can’t put a price on moral authority.

    Oh wait, yes you can, the legitimate ivory trade could be a multi-billion dollar a year industry if we actually got rid of the poachers.  It’s already worth about a billion/year, but would be worth much more if poachers stopped poaching, and allowed elephant populations to grow.  Which would yield more ivory over the long run.

    But it’s more important that we feel good about ourselves and deny the developing world a highly lucrative trade income, and consign it forever to a dangerous, and incredibly profitable, black market.

    • #23
  24. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Adobejoe,

    is the headline picture from your 1500 stash? Nice!

    • #24
  25. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    From my reading of the linked articles, anything in your possession is safe. What’s being banned is the sale of ivory items, not their possession.

    It’s still stupid of course. I’m still rattling this around, but I’m increasingly convinced that banning or limiting the sale of objects is foolhardy. If there are specific behaviors we wish to address (e.g., poaching) best to focus on that.

    • #25
  26. rico Inactive
    rico
    @rico

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:From my reading of the linked articles, anything in your possession is safe. What’s being banned is the sale of ivory items, not their possession.

    Not true. Musicians can have their own instruments confiscated (even with proof of ownership) when returning to the US from outside the country.

    • #26
  27. rico Inactive
    rico
    @rico

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: … I’m increasingly convinced that banning or limiting the sale of objects is foolhardy. If there are specific behaviors we wish to address (e.g., poaching) best to focus on that.

    Couldn’t agree more.

    • #27
  28. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    rico: Not true. Musicians can have their own instruments confiscated (even with proof of ownership) when returning to the US from outside the country.

    On the grounds of that counting as an import?

    • #28
  29. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    rico: Not true. Musicians can have their own instruments confiscated (even with proof of ownership) when returning to the US from outside the country.

    On the grounds of that counting as an import?

    The stories I’ve read suggest the bureaucrats expect paperwork concerning the ivory’s origins which the musicians either do not have available or don’t have at all. It’s not like craftsmen a century or more ago anticipated the need for such verification, so in many cases the necessary paperwork never existed.

    • #29
  30. adobejoe Member
    adobejoe
    @JosephMoure

    SONY DSC SONY DSC

    • #30
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