BOOKS: Ivory Markets in the USA
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2008:
Ivory Markets in the USA
by Esmond Martin & Daniel Stiles
Save the Elephants (P.O. Box 54667, 00200 Nairobi, Kenya), 2008.
120 pages, paperback, produced in partnership with Care for the
Wild International. No price listed.
Ivory Markets in the USA follows Esmond Martin and Daniel
Stiles’ earlier comprehensive reports on the ivory traffic in Africa,
southern and eastern Asia, and Europe. Martin, a geographer, and
Stiles, an anthropologist, in each report thoroughly inventory and
document all the ivory items they find offered for sale in examples
of every type of retail outlet that might stock ivory. Dominoes,
piano keys, and guitar picks attract their notice, as well as the
ornate carvings that are most often associated with antique and
therefore legal uses of ivory.
Under the African Elephant Conservation Act, passed by
Congress in 1988, legal ivory imports into the U.S. are limited to
items made more than 100 years ago, trophy tusks from the few
African nations where elephants are not considered endangered, and
tusks collected before the Conventional on International Trade in
Endangered Species was ratified in July 1975.
Seemingly narrow as those restrictions are, “Over 40,000
worked ivory items, excluding personal effects, entered the U.S.
legally from 1995 to 2007, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service,” Martin and Stiles found.
Their coast-to-coast survey of 16 U.S. communities discovered
24,004 ivory items available at 657 outlets, “most of which probably
were legally for sale,” Martin and Stiles believe. “New York City
had by far the most ivory for sale, with 11,376 items, followed by
San Francisco (2,777) and Los Angeles (2,605). The U.S. appears to
have the second largest ivory retail market in the world after
China/Hong Kong, as determined by the number of items offered for
Martin and Stiles believe that up to a third of the ivory
they saw in the U.S. was illegally imported, “but this estimate in
tentative and should be treated with caution because of the
difficulty of dating ivory objects,” they acknowlege. “The western
U.S., particularly Honolulu, San Francisco, and Los Angeles,
appeared to have more post-1989 worked ivory for sale than eastern
The good news for the elephants whose tusks are carved into
ivory is that the U.S. market is imploding. “The U.S. has a minimum
of 120 full-and-part-time ivory craftsmen,” Martin and Stiles
assess. “This is down from an estimate of 1,400 in 1989. No large
ivory factories remain; craftsmen are scattered throughout the U.S.,
working in small shops, usually at home. They use mostly old,
legal raw ivory,” including “broken or damaged ivory items.”
Total U.S. ivory use per year is now less than a ton, Martin
and Stiles believe–less than a seventh of the pre-1989 total.
Among the most characteristic U.S. uses of ivory are making knife
and pistol handles.