From the mid-1800s on, hundreds of thousands of African elephants were slaughtered for their ivory. Their valuable ivory tusks, some weighing as much as 200 pounds each, were collected and the rest of the elephant was left to rot in the sun or for scavengers to feast on. The ivory was used for many things such as piano keys, to ladies combs to various ornate pieces of carved artwork.
In some areas of Africa, elephants were hunted to extinction prompting many countries to pass laws on the import and sale of ivory from elephants. In 1975, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora went into effect to protect endangered plants and animals. CITES, as it is known by, has been ratified several times over the years and one of those ratifications stipulated that only ivory that predated 1989 could be sold in the United States. Any ivory after 1989 had to have CITES certification in order to be legally sold in the US and many other nations.
Ivory can be dated by a combination of several characteristics including stains, wear, coloring, quality and the style of the ivory piece in question. Just like many other forms of art, ivory art has changed over the years, thus providing an indication of the time it was created.
While the efforts of the international convention to stop newer sales of ivory and thus save elephants from being completely exterminated were noble, they have also backfired to some extent. Yes, in some areas of Africa, elephant populations have rebounded to the point of having too many for the land to accommodate. Some of these elephants have been driven to new ranges while others have had to be culled by hired hunters. The ivory from these culled elephants is then certified by CITES and sold to help pay for effective elephant conservation projects.
With fewer elephants being killed, the amount of ivory available to traders has drastically declined and whenever any product becomes more scarce, it always drives the price up. Thus the price of black market ivory has risen to record heights and I suspect those prices will rise even higher under Obama’s latest dictatorial mandate.
In typical know nothing bleeding heart conservationist style of knee jerk reacting, Obama has placed a ban on the sale of all ivory regardless of when it was originally purchased. That means that antique dealers, art dealers, auctioneers and private collectors are not allowed to sell anything made from ivory. Your family could own a piece of carved ivory that is over 100 years old, obtained legally and now worth several hundred thousand dollars, but you can never sell it to anyone else, legally.
Additionally, the ban also applies to the import of any ivory; even if it is a legal piece of artwork or a treasured antique. In the past, a person or art dealer could purchase and import a legal piece of ivory artwork for his own collection or to be auctioned off, but not any longer.
Obama also banned the export of all ivory products except antiques. Their definition of antique is anything more than 100 years old.
If your great, great grandfather had travelled to Africa and legally killed an elephant and brought its tusks home and they are setting up in a corner in your living room, you are stuck with them. If you lose your job and are facing foreclosure and bankruptcy and the tusks together are worth $500,000, too bad because you can’t sell them to anyone, legally.
In the end, some law abiding citizens will get desperate and try to sell their ivory pieces to rich collectors, only to end up being busted and imprisoned. The black market price of ivory will skyrocket further, making it more tempting for poachers to kill more elephants. In some areas of Africa, one large set of tusks is the equivalent to a year’s income for a family. In times of hunger, that temptation becomes a strong motive to turn good people into illegal poachers. The amount of elephant poaching is sure to rise as the price of their ivory on the black market goes higher and higher. Thus, Obama’s irrational decision will only lead to the illegal slaughter of more elephants, rather than helping to save them.
Why Obama did this is probably for the same reason he is forcing Christians to violate their faith or go out of business – because he can. There is no other logical reason for this ban on the sale of legal ivory other than to add to Obama’s power trip and ego as America’s first supreme dictator.