I’ll say this right up front so you’ll know where I stand: killing elephants for their tusks is wrong. The beauty and feel of elephant ivory is like no other material ever made, but engraved Chinese trinkets and perfect piano keys can’t justify the killing of extremely rare, intelligent and long-lived animals.
That being said, the recent actions of the White House and the U.S. Department Of The Interior cannot be justified either. They are in the process of almost completely banning the domestic sale — and resale — of any item containing elephant ivory, including the scales of collector’s knives like this one. If you own such a knife it soon be a crime for you to sell it, unless you’ve happened to keep a mountain of paperwork with it.
Even then you won’t be able to sell it across state lines. And none of this government intrusion is likely to save a single elephant.
Here it is, straight from all the President’s men:
FACT SHEET: National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking & Commercial Ban on Trade in Elephant Ivory:
…We will finalize a proposed rule that will reaffirm and clarify that sales across state lines are prohibited, except for bona fide antiques, and will prohibit sales within a state unless the seller can demonstrate an item was lawfully imported prior to 1990 for African elephants and 1975 for Asian elephants, or under an exemption document.
So it won’t matter if your ivory-handled knife, or piano, or pool cue or cufflinks were made decades ago from lawfully-imported ivory. If you don’t have the paperwork to prove it, you won’t be able to sell it to anybody. And if you can’t also prove that it’s at least 100 years old, you can’t sell it across state lines.
This foolish move is being made for all the right reasons. Despite severe global restrictions on the ivory trade, elephants are still being slaughtered for their tusks. Much of the blame must be placed on the local African governments. Failed and failing African states, hobbled by corruption or civil war, are impotent to enforce laws prohibiting poaching and trading in elephant ivory.
And the rest of the blame must be placed on China and much of southeast Asia. After all, the market will not create a supply where there is no demand. Demand is huge in Asia for all kinds of prohibited endangered animal products, from bear gall bladders to tiger privates to elephant ivory. China and its neighbors turn an a blind eye to massive imports of illegal ivory each year, because large domestic artisan industries depend on the supply for their livelihood.
But this domestic ban is still the wrong thing to do, even if it’s for the right reasons. It is estimated that over 95% of the illegal ivory trade is sent directly to Asia, and this extreme new rule won’t affect Chinese government practices one tiny bit. It’s also estimated that less than 5% of the ivory in the United States was illegally sourced.
But the Obama Administration turns these statistics upside-down. POTUS aims to turn American collectors into criminals by enacting a presumption that all ivory was illegally obtained despite knowing that it isn’t. The old rule was that the Government had to prove it was illegal, but now every collector will have to prove his innocence. And that’s just plain un-American.
How many of your great-uncles kept the receipt when they brought that ivory-handled hunting knife back from Germany in the 1950s? And how many of them passed that receipt along to your father, and then to you?
Didn’t think so. If you try to sell that knife after this rule goes into effect, you’ll be a criminal. Here’s a question for you, Mr. President: how can you prevent crime by creating more criminals?
h/t to Knife Rights