Only 30 days left to raise funding supporting the legal effort to block the building of a road across the Serengeti. The Serengeti and Maasai Mara represent a world heritage site under siege. Your contribution is important to the group I am working with, the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in Nairobi. Please lead a hand, a gift of any amount is appreciated. The effort so far has been supported in total by the Serengeti Watch people and their network. It would not be accomplished with out Serengeti Watch. A big thanks to their organization. This last push rests with ANAW and and ANAW’s friends. Can we count on your help? Please go to the link below and make a contribution of any amount.
Check out related stories and reference to the legal battle taking place. The status at this juncture of the “legal battle” is fully on the shoulders of ANAW. Please join the community of conservation monitors and experts.
On February 7, 2015, the BBC News Science & Environment division published a report about the lack of preparedness among freight and shipping handlers for identifying animal parts transported across international boarders. Among the findings and statements:
- Poaching of rhinos in South Africa reached a record of 1,215 last year
- Tigers have been killed off to a level that is 5% of what the population was a century ago. There are approximately 3,000 tigers left in all the world
- Smugglers are learning new tricks to disguise horn and ivory
- Asian ivory carvers are moving into Africa to practice their trade
The article is noteworthy because it is describing the lengths criminals pursue to evade detection. All this is fueled by consumer demand for animal parts. Bangles, or bracelets are easily disguised as plastic. There are few techniques for testing the composition of items declared as something that is not horn or ivory. Ivory bracelets are labeled “vintage” or “antique”. Shipping handlers are stymied and have little recourse but to accept the shipment as is. How can they question the age of an item? In practice the burden of proof of age falls to the agent and veracity of the owner shipping the item.
Today, I did a search on eBay and found many bangles for sale that look like ivory. EBay prohibits the sale of ivory on its site because eBay doesn’t accept the documentation of age from owners. I wonder if anything slips through and is published for sale? Perhaps someone reading this blog knows how on-line marketing groups like eBay monitor bangles and ivory-looking objects. I would be interested in knowing more. I don’t want to disparage legitimate dealers, but who monitors the claims that ivory is pre-ban and can they prove it? The volume of pre-ban bangles for sale on the Internet is impressive. I found one pre-ban bangle priced at $700.
Ivory carvers from China moving to Africa to ply their trade is disturbing. It puts tradespeople closer to the source of ivory and bone further encouraging demand. It also suggests the markets in China are expanding. Edmond and Stiles, in their landmark 2008 publication, Ivory Markets in the U.S.A, identified fewer than 200 ivory carvers in this country (pages 21-23). In the U.S., carves worked ivory for knife-handles, billiard cues, jewelery, musical instruments, scrimshanders, restored antiques, netsuke and handgun grips. I’m not aware of an inventory of carvers since this publication which suggests the trades are dying out in the U.S. The news in the BBC article suggest the trade in carving ivory is far from dead.
This is all the more reason for the bringing attention to the expanding markets worldwide. We should not be complacent that the poaching of African wildlife is going away. We might be hopeful the situation is changing. Fewer elephants were poached in Kenya in 2014 than in 2013. However, the observations about animal trafficking and general preparedness to identify, arrest and prosecute criminals is not encouraging.
Finally, selling ivory is still a problem for us in the United States. The purchase of ivory feeds supply lines and commerce requiring more dead elephants. A colleague visited San Francisco California last month (January 2015) and took these store front snapshots. If the American public wants to buy ivory, there still is a lot of it for sale.
The recent news to crush elephant ivory confiscated by customs agents continues the symbolic effort bringing attention to ivory demand in the United States. I’m glad to learn about the plans to crush the ivory. In Nairobi’s National Park, the site of the first burning of tons of ivory is the pride of conservationist in Kenya. Richard Leakey, then the director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, persuaded President Moi to make a bold statement, to set Kenya Wildlife Department’s stockpile of 2000 tusks on fire (picture below). It was torched on the morning of July 18, 1989. The placard in the park notes that Kenya is “making a statement of global concern: that Kenya would no longer allow the slaughter of its elephants to satisfy market demand for ivory.” The crushing of ivory in Denver will make the same symbolic statement. Regrettably, a couple of decades have passed and history repeats itself.
A 2008 publication by Care for the Wildlife International and Save the Elephants by Esmond Martin and Daniel Stiles) documents the United States as being the second largest retail market for elephant ivory, the first being mainland China including Hong Kong. While this publication is five years old, the slaughter taking place today suggests US demand continues to be a factor.
So I’m thinking, how would I know if ivory is legal or not. How would I even know if I was handling ivory? When Josphat Ngnoyo and Nehemiah Rotich were in New York City last May we were shocked to discover an antique store on Madison Avenue selling a huge variety of ivory. The store owner said much of it was “not real ivory” and any thing that was real was pre-1988, before the enactment of the African Elephant Conservation Law. I have sense learned The U.S. Department of the Interior forensics laboratory is developing or has developed a manual for ivory identification by visual inspection. Elephant ivory is often mislabeled as mammoth ivory coming from Russia. Mammoth, no longer around are not in danger of eradication and therefore not covered by the endangered species law. And there are many other alternatives to elephant ivory. Bone and plastic be made to look and touch like authentic tusk. The Department of Interior’s website where this manual can be had is http://www.lab.fws.gov/html. The site is currently closed due to the government’s shutdown.
Denver doesn’t have a large retail ivory market according to Martin and Stiles research. There is a large market on both coasts where one can find ivory in Los Angeles, San Francisco’s China Town and New York City’s antique stores and flea markets.
Denver’s Federal installation is the large depository of illicit elephant ivory. It is a good thing that we demonstrate there is not street value or black market value for this ivory.
Kenya’s historic 1989 ivory burningl