With many people inquiring with us about the new ivory regulation imposed by US Fish & Wildlife Service we have the below information to help you understand what the new regulation entails. We are not your law firm nor are we the USFWS nor the State Department so if you desire answers from those folks you need to ask them. To the best of our knowledge the information seen below is accurate because it came from USFWS.
USFWS has put a regulation into place that took effect on July 6, 2016 and affects the sale of pre-ban African elephant ivory in the USA. The new regulation forbids the interstate sale of ivory in the US unless the item qualifies as an ESA (Endangered Species Act) antique OR if the item meets the "de minimis" exemption. Below are the requirements of these two exemptions:
1) To qualify for the ESA antiques exemption, an item must meet all of the following criteria [seller/importer/exporter must demonstrate]:
Under Director’s Order No. 210, as a matter of enforcement discretion, items imported prior to September 22, 1982, and items created in the United States and never imported must comply with elements A, B, and C above, but not element D.
2) To qualify for the de minimis exception, manufactured or handcrafted items must meet all of the following criteria:
Here is a link to the full regulation:http://www.fws.gov/international/pdf/final-rule-african-elephant-4d.pdf
What this means for most of us is that items made with pre-ban ivory can only enter interstate commerce if they are small parts (cue stick parts, piano keys, gun grips , etc.) that are part of a larger item (such as a gun or cue stick) and the ivory was from pre-ban (pre-1990) tusks AND the item was made prior to July 6th, 2016. It appears that any ivory item can sell after July 6th within a state (intrastate commerce) so long as it was made from pre-ban (pre-1990) ivory.
I thought a few words about wildlife conservation, as it relates to elephants, might be of interest. My grandfather started working in ivory in the early 1900's and my dad, as a kid, in the 1930's. I started working in this beautiful material when I was a kid in the 60's. Dad started buying old tusks from collections in the 1950's and I continued and expanded on this practice in the 1970's and beyond. In 1989 it became illegal to import ivory into the US with a few UN sanctioned exceptions ( Big game hunting, antiques, and for people's property when moving internationally). Because I worked in pre-ban material this regulation had no effect upon my work.
In 2013 with executive order # 13648 there was a push to make the commerce in old pre-act ivory in this nation illegal. This resulted in a regulation put forth by US Fish & Wildlife on July 6, 2016 that has made the interstate sale of most pre-ban ivory items illegal. This is environmentalism. I am in favor of programs of properly managing wildlife. This is known as wildlife conservation and it is at variance with environmentalism.
The truth about elephant populations in Africa is something nobody wants to talk about because the truth reflects upon politics in Africa and here in America. When the European countries colonized Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries they brought with them the European model of wildlife conservation. This model worked well, elephant populations were healthy, and yet people were able to develop the land. I will detail some of the conservation methods employed because they are interesting but first let's look at what went wrong.
When western colonialism went by the wayside and the African people started "controlling their own destiny", the northern countries, in rebellious fashion, threw out the western model of conservation and with it went the quality control and methods for these animals to thrive in and under. The southern countries in Africa did not throw out the European system and those countries have a superabundance of elephants to this day.
To see how well the western model works one need only to look at the astounding wildlife populations and the continuation of species in Europe where human civilization has historically been the hardest on nature and wildlife. Europe has been the scene of the most intense wars, plagues, famines and pestilences, where, time and time again, people were thrown into situations where they have had to live off the land. Through such perils and environmental hazards their wildlife management model continued to work and it continues to work very well to this day. It also worked very well in Africa where elephant populations were healthy in the days of western colonialism.
The new way of thinking in the northern countries, especially Kenya, was that wildlife was to be considered a natural resource no different than natural gas and oil. Their philosophy towards wildlife was that "when it is gone, it is gone". It was only when the elephant and other animals were nearly eradicated from these countries, and they were losing tourism dollars, that they realized they had made a mistake and then tried to backpedal and to blame their problems on others.
The European model is very scientific and has many aspects to it but let's first look at a few elephant facts that will make the conservation methods more understandable. Elephants are herbivores and grind their teeth to dust as they consume a lot of earthy grit along with their food. An elephant goes through a set of teeth in 6 to 10 years. When these teeth are worn out, they are replaced by a new set but there is a limit as elephants have the capacity for only six sets of teeth in their lifetime. The last set comes in at around age 40 and when these last teeth wear out the elephant dies a slow and unpleasant death by starvation. With no natural enemies, elephants are faced with disease and starvation as the only limitations to their continued success in the wild. For this reason elephant herds grow rapidly and they quickly overpopulate their range and soon destroy their habitat. The Sahara desert was once a sub-tropical paradise until elephants turned it into a desert. An average elephant eats its weight in food every 20 days (usually between 500 and 750 pounds per day) and drinks 60 gallons of water per day. That is per elephant per day. A proper population balance is important if the eco-system wherein they live is to be kept from becoming a desert.
These and other facts of nature regarding elephants caused the conservationists to develop a program that was designed to protect the elephant, keep the herds healthy and numerous, and at the same time protect the land from deforestation by these creatures.
Let's look at a few of the hunting rules. Permits were sold, usually at a hefty price, to sportsmen who were escorted by professional hunters who were licensed by the government and trained in acceptable hunting methods. The permit fees paid for the conservation efforts maintained by the government just as they do in most countries. Female elephants could only be shot in self defense. Sex had to be determined prior to shooting. If a man tracked a particular elephant for weeks and then discovered he had tracked a female - the hunt was over - he could not shoot. Diseased and old elephants had the highest priority for being shot.
These hunting regulations made sense. As long as there is one bull elephant around during mating season, every female gets pregnant and has a calf. Many bulls are not needed and diseased and old bulls are not wanted for the job. You have the healthiest herds if you breed young and healthy stock. The older matriarchs teach the younger one's how to migrate, attain water, etc.. Sport hunters want the biggest tusks and these are found on the oldest bull elephants. These are bulls who are past their prime breeding years and who are beginning to starve to death because they are on their last set of teeth or have no teeth left with which to eat.
The old tusks I have bought over the years came from these situations. The hunters were Americans who went to Africa and obtained hunting permits from the national governments in the countries they chose to hunt in. They hired professional hunters to guide them and all of them were apprised of the laws and rules of the hunt.
The number one killer of elephants has always been disease. Number two has always been starvation in old age. Number three is man. When an old or diseased elephant senses the end of its life is near it leaves the herd so as not to slow down the migration and it wanders off to die alone in the countryside. This fact has given rise to the myth of a secret elephant graveyard. Because man does not see the old and diseased die but do see the hunted die he has always assumed he was the biggest killer until scientific research done by the European colonialists proved otherwise.
Pliny the Elder, writing in the first century AD, noted the amount of ivory being brought up from Africa for use in the Roman empire was so great as to assure the extinction of the elephant within two human generations. Uninformed and misguided people have been making similar claims ever since. The heyday of ivory consumption was from the years 1890 to 1923 and many claims were made at the time that the elephant would be extinct within a few years however National Geographic and Encyclopedia Britannica both confirm that 5 of every 6 tusks brought to market in those years came from "dead ivory". These were tusks the native chieftains had amassed and handed down to successors for centuries. In most tribal areas such collections were symbolic of great wealth but when offered gold coin for their ivory the chieftains opted for the ready cash.
It is of interest that the environmental groups today still make thunderous claims of the impending extinction of the elephants but have never spent a dime of their funds on research in curing elephant diseases which still sits at the top of the chart for elephant kills. Nor do they send money to the wildlife departments of nations in Africa to help fund their wildlife conservation programs where they cull out the diseased and aged to retain healthy young herds.
The environmentalists who live in Africa and are closer to the intricacies of this topic have repeatedly warned that an extended ban on the sale of ivory will result in the eradication of elephants. Their reasoning is very interesting and easily understood once a few facts are before you.
We live in an industrialized society and we need to understand that Africa is a developing continent and, with few localized exceptions, is in an agricultural state. As an agricultural society their world view is significantly different than yours or mine. In an agricultural society people cultivate crops they can sell to make a living. If their government or the United Nations passes a law that says it is illegal to sell corn then they have to switch to another crop because if they grow corn they cannot sell it and they cannot make a living.
The elephant, in their eyes, is a crop. In addition, if it does not yield a return it is rightly viewed as a significant liability. Remember that an elephant eats its weight in food every 20 days and drinks 60 gallons of water each day. Understand also there is no fence that can contain an elephant. So if you have an animal that can eat you out of house and home, destroy your crops, travel anywhere to find more food, and is of no commercial value - what are you going to do with it ? Ask your ancestors what they did with the American bison that posed these exact same set of conditions and problems in the 1800's when we as a nation were an agricultural society. The animal goes. In the case of the bison - to the brink of extinction. In the case of the elephant - it will depend on our ability to show the people of Africa that their crop of elephants has value and is worth keeping around for their own benefit and that of their children and grandchildren. If we continue to tell them they cannot sell elephant products they will soon enough say "let's get rid of this crop and get a crop in here we can make money on".
As the human populations of the African countries grow, the elephants have increasingly less space to call home. With no commercial value currently attached to the elephant herds, there is little incentive for the local inhabitants to preserve this majestic ‘land hog’. The answer lies in restoring the European wildlife management methodology and in allowing the harvested animal products to enter the marketplace so there is a monetary incentive for these people to keep elephants around. Likewise, political stability in Africa needs to be promoted because the lack of it causes people to live off the land during civil wars and socio-political upheavals. In these harsh times people decimate herds of elephants in order to stay alive. The push for socialism is the root cause of most political instability in Africa.
Info from Godfrey Harris
Godfrey Harris, Managing Director of the Ivory Education Institute, has this to add about managed conservation practices:
Crocodiles were the very first species to be placed on Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species— those species threatened with extinction — at the initial Conference of Parties in Washington, DC in 1976. Wild crocodiles were being hunted for their distinctive hides, then in high demand to meet Western fashion trends.
To restore crocodiles to their former robust place in the scheme of things that had been evolving for 100 million years, while realistically recognizing the economic benefits they provide to native populations, crocodile eggs were removed from their swamp nests and taken to private ranches where they were incubated, protected from attack, and nurtured. Since crocodiles are known to lay 50 to 60 eggs at a time, captive areas were soon literally crawling with these amphibians. Harvesting the skins of some of the animals as they passed beyond reproductive usefulness provided the income that allowed the process to thrive. As just one example, Zimbabwe earned $300,000 from crocodilian exports in 1991; by 2014 it was above $24 million.
Managed conservation practices can be instrumental in saving wild animal populations from destructive forces that may lead to their extinction. We just have to remember the Nile crocodile and remind others what can be done when man thinks instead of rearranging his prejudices.
Making an animal extinct is a very difficult thing to do. It is almost impossible to do as a commercial venture because as the population decreases of the specie being hunted, it becomes commercially infeasible to find and harvest the animals in the more remote regions where they can be found and where they are more sparsely populated. At the same time that it becomes a financially losing proposition to seek out and kill the animals, the rising price of the product in the marketplace causes the buying public to seek alternatives to the product such that, in the end, with competition in the marketplace, the price of the product plummets and harvesting the animals becomes a totally losing proposition. The North American sea otter is the best example of this. Never has an animal been more hunted in the world for commercial purposes than this creature which is an exceedingly easy animal to harvest and was harvested intently in the 1700's and 1800's before any protection laws were in place in their range. But they were never hunted to extinction nor even near extinction. The free marketplace factors just mentioned imploded the price of sea otter pelts and man left the critters alone. Had scientific wildlife management been in place the price would have plummeted earlier and there would have been an even stronger base from which they could repopulate.
What really saved elephants was the introduction of competitive products. Plastic was first invented in the early 1850's and was developed specifically to replace ivory. Plastics were improved from there with one purpose in mind - to replace ivory in the marketplace for utilitarian items such as billiard balls, combs, brush backs and handles of every type. Vulcanized rubber was also invented in the 1800's for the specific product/market niche of replacing ivory in utilitarian items.
As we have seen that it is difficult to make an animal extinct as the result of commerce in its' products we need to note that it is far more likely to make an animal extinct if there is a willingness to get rid of the animal. If an animal is considered by mankind to be a pest then man can and will find a way to be rid of it. Let's look at the North American bison example again. The bison was viewed as a pest and an animal that could not co-exist with the development of an agricultural society and nation. It carried diseases that decimated domestic cattle herds and it was, in itself, an animal of low product yield. It was also a wild animal that could not be domesticated. These factors led to a national thought process that said this animal needed to be eradicated.
When I was in grade school I was taught the bison would be extinct soon because there were only a few hundred left in the country at the time but soon enough man found a way to commercially farm the beasts and now you can buy bison meat in many supermarkets. Commercial viability saved the animal just as commercial non-viability nearly made it extinct. The same will be true of the elephant. If you tell people they cannot sell elephant products they will rightly view this giant animal as the greatest of all pests and, with a willingness to rid themselves of this pest, they will purge this animal and plant crops they can manage and profit from.
People in an agricultural society will plant and harvest crops that yield the greatest amount of monetary return. If you tell people that corn is of no value they will plant sorghum. If sorghum is of lower value than wheat then they will plant wheat. If you think elephants and their resulting products of hide, bones, meat and ivory are not a crop than you are ignorant of the facts. If you tell the nations of Africa they cannot sell their elephant products they will, in time, simply get rid of that crop and turn to a crop that can and does produce. The answer is to farm these animals with European style conservation techniques and that is exactly what most of the southern countries in Africa do and they are the countries with the largest and healthiest herds of elephants but they will not be able to continue in this work if they are not allowed to sell the resulting products.
Are Elephants Hunted For Their Ivory ?
I wanted to touch briefly on a topic that I have heard my life through, namely that elephants are hunted for their ivory and that if elephants did not have tusks they would not be threatened as a specie but would be left alone to live their lives in peace and quiet. The African elephant has never landed on the endangered species list. While this fact speaks volumes it is not to say the animal does not need our protection but to keep people from using ivory is not the answer. If you need proof of this then consider the tusk facts of the 3 species of elephants on this planet in relation to the animal's endangerment. The Ceylon elephant is almost extinct - there are a couple dozen of these guys left and, interestingly enough, they are a tuskless elephant. The next critter to look at is the Indian elephant. It has been on the endangered species list since the list came out. It does not yield ivory in quantity or quality and its' ivory has been bypassed for centuries in the ivory world in favor of the high quality African ivory. That leaves us to look at the third critter - the majestic African elephant with the highest quality ivory known to man - yet it is not on the endangered list. The resulting truth is stark - the elephants with the largest and best tusks are the least endangered. The elephants that are naturally tuskless are nearly extinct. It makes sense that the elephant specie with the highest quality and highest value ivory tusks are going to be cultivated by man by virtue of adopting a working wildlife conservation program for them. Likewise the elephant species that hold little or even negative commercial value would engender little or no such conservation programs and, being viewed as pests, mankind would work to be rid of these non-commercially viable animals.
All one has to do is to think of cows and chickens. If they had no value to man they would have been extinct long ago because they are defenseless and stupid animals. Because they have the greatest value to man of all the animals on the planet we have learned to domesticate them and breed them into the hundreds of millions. Modern environmentalism has been working for 60 years to destroy the trade in ivory and hence the value in ivory. By de-valueing ivory they are de-valueing the elephant. Sixty years of this has shown us it is not a working program. The ESA and CITES systems simply do not work and by their own admission they do not work. When the African elephant becomes value-less because of environmental pressures worldwide to stop the legal sale of ivory in every possible jurisdiction on the planet then the people and nations who have elephants will have absolutely no monetary incentive to keep these animals around. The environmentalists who are trying to save the elephants are actually the people who will be responsible for making them extinct. Their current misguided actions are due to their lack of understanding of market forces and true wildlife conservation and of how the two have worked together, historically, to balance wildlife in its habitat.
What environmentalism is trying to do today is the exact opposite of what has been proven to work historically to preserve wildlife. Historically, wildlife management hinged on a two point system. First, the free market was not controlled or tampered with by the government but was left alone to determine the value of the wildlife products in question. Secondly, and very importantly, the wildlife was scientifically managed at the location/range where the animal or plant existed. This wildlife management system has worked very well in every area where it has been implemented and it worked very well for the African elephant until it was abandoned, gradually, starting in the 1960's. Since then there has been more government control of the marketplace and less control of the actual wildlife management on the ground where the animal lives. Modern environmentalism is working on this new theory - that of controlling the marketplace and not managing the wildlife where it lives. This has never been tried before - do we want to risk the extinction of the African elephant by implimenting a system that has never been tried before and that is the opposite of what has proven to work? What has been implimented of this new system these past 60 years has shown itself not to work. Should we continue or go back to what works?
Info from Ron Thomson
Ron was deeply involved in the management of both Hwange and Gonarezhou National Parks in Zimbabwe. He is the author of many books on conservation in Africa (http://www.ronthomsonshuntingbooks.co.za). He is an expert who has lived and managed wildlife. Read his words about elephant populations in southern Africa, the animal rights groups, and the attitude of American government agencies toward the environmental and conservation problems that Africa is experiencing.
Here is what Ron has to say:
As someone whose passion is wildlife management - and who has a special interest in elephants and rhinos - whose belief it is that maintaining biological diversity is the ULTIMATE and singlemost important goal of living resource management in a national park, I have to tell you that ALL our southern African national parks are horrifically overstocked with elephants - and that the elephants are busy turning their habitats into deserts. In 1960 it was agreed by the National Parks Board of that time, that the Hwange National Park's elephant stocking rate was no more than one elephant per two square miles (I still believe that is about right); and Hwange National Park is 5000 square miles in extent. Between 1960 and 1964, therefore, I was involved in trying to reduce the elephant population of Hwange from (then) 3500 to 2500 - by shooting every elephant that crossed the park boundary into the tribal lands beyond. Tim Braybrook and I shot hundreds of elephants during that period, but we never achieved our objective because elephants were all the time invading Hwange from Botswana - attracted by the 60 boreholed game water supplies we provided for our game in Hwange during that same period of time. And, in those days even, the elephants of Hwange were already rendering extinct several species of trees in the Hwange habitats. Nevertheless, in 1960, lets say the 'desired' number of elephants for Hwange was 2500. Compare that to the numbers today: over 50 000. That means Hwange is currently overstocked with elephants by 2000 percent! The Gonarezhou is now carrying 11 000 elephants - and the habitats have been trashed. The 2000 sq mile Gonarezhou should be carrying no more than 1000 elephants. So the Gonarezhou is over 1000 percent overstocked. Kruger should be carrying no more than 4000 elephants; it is currently carrying between 16 000 and 20 000 (depending on whose elephant assessment you believe). So Kruger is 400 to 500 percent over stocked. Botswana is now carrying in excess of 200 000 elephants; yet in 1960, when irreparable habitat damage was first reported from Chobe National Park, the comparable count was (about) 7 500. So Botswana is carrying, arguably, 27 times as many elephants as it should - and its other wild animal species populations have crashed by up to 60 percent (so far); in some cases by as much as 90 percent.
If you care to look at the situation in Namibia you will find the the same kind of elephant overpopulation situation exists there, too. So where do these damned First World animal rightists get their propaganda figures from? And why is the IUCN et al, not more concerned about elephant habitat damage than they are concerned about elephant numbers? You NEVER hear IUCN so-called "experts" talking about the state of the habitats. They only express positive comments when elephant count numbers are UP; and dismal forebodings (about extinction) when numbers are DOWN. The IUCN is worse than the animal rightists! Elephant population numbers and the health of elephant habitats go hand in hand. They should be considered as one entity. Don't these people understand ANYTHING about the principles and practices of wildlife management?
The world has gone crazy with its concern about the predictions of elephant extinctions contained in the animal rightists' false propaganda. Do the figures I have quoted give you any reason to believe that the elephant, as a species, is facing extinction? Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet in America - from Barack Obama's office down through the governments various administrations - everybody is going cuckoo over the possibility. Aren't the people of America normal, thinking and intelligent people? Don't they understand that the animal rights movement is a confidence industry. The purpose of them propagating such disinformation is to make money - vast amounts of money - from the gullible public. And all these people are now telling Africa HOW it should manage its wildlife. That idea is preposterous! These people should keep their hands off Africa!
End of Ron's information.
The answer to the question of why animal activist groups and political hacks would work to impliment these policies is best answered by saying "money and power". The foot soldiers in the groups are thinking they are doing what is best for the animals but without a background in true scientific wildlife management they are easily led into believing what their leadership wants them to believe. The leadership class in this movement are true socialists and so they seek money, power and control.
Let's look at the money. It comes to them in three forms:
1) Donations to environmental groups surge when hot topics such as elephants, panda bears and snow leopards are thrown on the screen.
2) These environmental groups are the one's that receive many millions of dollars each year in grant money from the government to study these animals.
3) Fine money. Deep in the hundreds of detail pages of any regulation are the protocols of where the fine money goes. When the EPA, NOAA, FWS and other regulatory agencies fine a company for a violation of a regulation we all think the fine money goes to the US Treasury but it does not. When the EPA fines Exxon $ 200 Million dollars for an oil spill, the case then goes to a judge to determine the payment and details of the fine. Referencing the fine print seen deep in the hundreds of pages of regulation details the judge then offers Exxon the alternative to the fine. The alternative is to give a total of $ 150 Million to one or more of the environmental groups listed in the regulation. The environmental groups are actively developing and writing regulations for the regulatory agencies to impliment. They list themselves as the beneficiaries of the fine money. The Federal employees who spearhead and push the successful hot topic regulations are given lucrative jobs at the environmental groups. This is how a FWS employee who is making $ 90,000 a year is able to instantly land a $ 530,000 per year job at the Zoo & Aquarium Association.This is called corruption.
Let's look deeper - at the power and control end of their work. All of this results in managing public opinion and this is political power for these organizations. The politicians are scarred to death of the environmental groups and their voting minions. The politicians think they will be voted out of office if they are seen as anti-environmentalism. This is called being a weasel of a politician. I know, I have them from my district.
Just in case you thought I was upset...
Now, lest the reader, after enduring this long diatribe of information be left with the sense that the writer is aggrieved and bitter towards all that has happened in the ivory world, be assured such is far from the case. As with the Assyrians afflicting the ancient people of Israel we now have modern day Assyrians, the populace of government agencies and environmentalism, afflicting the modern day American people. This is from the hand of God, has a divine purpose, and is welcome.
It is important to leave those who love to complain with something to complain about. The environmentalists and their minions have been the one's that have made my business and life go so well over these past 40 years and to you I extend a sincere thanks. This started with their work in making the importation of ivory illegal so many years ago.This created a situation of a national market for a beautiful material with no foreign competition.There were many intricacies of laws and social pressures, fomented by environmentalism, that contributed to continued success over the course of many decades. Ebay joined the environmental fray late in the game and made listing ivory illegal. This assured me of an even greater market as their national sales platform of this material was now extinct. This was but one of many situations that contributed to a tighter market and one in my favor. To my customers and my adversaries in this cultural warfare battle, I extend a sincere thank you.
My only regret in being forced out of business is that I will no longer be able to help the several charities I have donated to for so many years. Beyond the bare necessity of making a living, my work in life has been to generate money to help others. This new inability of mine to help others is not a fault laid at my feet but at the feet of those who stopped me from being of greater help to others via the removal of income from me. This new regulation that stops American's from buying and selling old pre-ban ivory within the United States should rightfully be viewed as a form of financial and cultural persecution. We are taught that we are to pray for our persecutors, to rejoice when we are persecuted and to flee to the next city when we are persecuted. I pray for our persecutors because they are to expect great wrath from the hands of God in this world and the next. A few words from Matthew Henry regarding persecution: "This must be considered not only as the suffering of the persecuted, but as the sin of the persecutors. The ruin of a people is always introduced by their sin and nothing introduces a surer or sorer ruin than the sin of persecution.This is a sign that God's wrath is coming to the uttermost when their wrath against the servants of God comes to the uttermost." I rejoice of this persecution because I know it is important to do what is right and creating beautiful artwork from God's beautiful natural materials is right.
Lastly, I flee from the city of ivoryville to the next city. I am uncertain of what I will be doing next but I anticipate something that should be fun and profitable! I pray to our heavenly Father that justice be served to those who have worked to stop the use of this beautiful God-given material from their fellow man. I pray that poetic justice finds itself at work here. That those who have removed this beloved material from the people, have their beloved materials removed from their lives. That those who would remove our income, financial security and retirement have the same removed from their lives. That those who would have us live in a country we do not recognize be made to live in a country they do not recognize.
Dover , Ohio