USA’s Secret Ivory Black Market Second Largest in the World
Crisis of conscience may be closer than it appears. Image from exfordy

I’ve often been watching some Discovery Channel documentary on the horrors that poaching can visit upon elephant populations in the wild, and thought to myself “I am so glad that we don’t support that sort of barbaric activity here.”

Regular readers of Environmental Graffiti will recognize that I was, as I usually am, totally, completely wrong. America, as it turns out, is the second largest consumer of Ivory in the world, and contributes heavily to the poaching and black market trade.

If the US were second, who would be first, you might ask?

China (who else) takes the top spot in the survey published by the UK-based Care for the Wild International. The group, who received funding for their survey from the Humane Society of the United States, the John Aspinall Foundation, and Save the Elephants, has reported a RISE in poaching in recent years, largely because of that old saw of economics classes: an increase in demand.

Of course, if you’re like me: what the nice policeman issuing you a speeding ticket politely calls a “curbside lawyer”, you may be protesting at this moment that it’s quite illegal to traffic in ivory in the U.S. That’s true. However, there are loopholes in the law, and they make the rest of the code difficult to enforce. Ivory tusks from Africa may be brought in as trophies, and anything older than 100 years old is fair game for any purpose. Despite the highest rate of seizures in the world, the U.S. has no way to stem the tide of black market ivory once it penetrates the initial layer of border security and customs.

How bad is this problem? The market is recognizing that the U.S. is a hot place to do business right now, and it is driving demand in China, according to the report, which is increasing the number of elephants killed illegally for their ivory, 23,000 in 2006.