California collectors challenge state’s ivory ban


May Lee, CCTV-America

Date Published

See link for TV report.

The poaching of elephants and rhinos is increasing at an alarming rate as demand in Asia for ivory and horns skyrockets. China is the largest importer of ivory after the United States. But now states are making efforts to stem the supply by imposing bans on buying and selling ivory and horns. California is the latest to jump on the bandwagon.

Godfrey Harris lost count of how many antique ivory pieces he owns. He started collecting as a child nearly 70 years ago. Some of his pieces date back centuries, making them quite valuable.

But starting July 1st, a new California bill goes into effect, which bans anyone from purchasing and selling ivory, as well as rhino horn. The law closes a loophole that had allowed the trade of ivory in the state as long as it was obtained before 1977.

“The ban is unnecessary. The ban is an overreaction on the part of our state legislators to heavy pressure from the animal rights groups,” Harris said.

Harris, who is also executive director of the Ivory Education Institute, said the ban is punishing people who acquired their pre-1977 items legally and makes their precious artifacts worthless.

But wildlife and conservation groups say the growing scourge of poaching in Africa and Asia calls for changes in human behavior.

Poaching statistics are staggering. According to multiple wildlife and scientific groups, 96 elephants are poached every day. That’s one every 15 minutes.

On April 30th, the tusks of 6,500 elephants and the horns of nearly 350 rhinos were torched in Kenya, sending a dramatic anti-poaching message.

But Harris vehemently disputes the poaching figures.

“It’s a very good way for the animal rights groups who get a lot of sympathy for seeing elephant calves searching for their mother who has been slaughtered for their tusks, as a fund raising device,” Harris stated.

Harris’ Institute is challenging the ban by suing the state of California. Meanwhile, the avid collector has an answer for what he and others will do with their collectibles.

“Sure, you’ve heard of a black market?” Harris said.