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Should ivory be banned in Hawaii?

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    In this March 7, 2016 photo, ornaments and jewelry carved out of tiger and whale teeth as well as elephant ivory sit at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Honolulu. All of the items were seized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from across the U.S. Hawaii lawmakers seem poised to ban the sale of ivory to help stop elephant poaching halfway across the world, despite objections from local businesses and artists.

Cheryl Konrad has spent the last 35 years educating visitors to her Lahaina, Hawaii, store about the centuries-old history of scrimshaw.

Konrad fills the shelves in Lahaina Scrimshaw with the etchings of local artists on fossilized walrus and mammoth ivory. But if a bill to ban the sale of ivory becomes law this year, she worries that she will be forced to close her store.

“I feel like I’ve been a part of history. It’s just so hard to fathom that it could be criminal eventually,” Konrad said.

Similar legislation in previous years has failed largely because of pushback from local merchants who make a living selling legal ivory carvings and jewelry. But increased awareness of the poaching elephants in Africa is leading lawmakers to reconsider.

“I think we have a good shot at it,” said state Sen. Mike Gabbard, a Democrat who represents Kapolei, and introduced the bill in the Senate.

The Humane Society of the United States says Hawaii is the third-largest ivory market in the nation after California and New York, which have banned its sale altogether. With the world in the midst of a poaching crisis, they say Hawaii could become America’s largest market if left unregulated.

Poaching of African elephants has reached the highest level recorded since international organizations began keeping track in 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. The agency estimates 100,000 elephants were killed across Africa for ivory between 2010 and 2012.

Both the Hawaii House and Senate have passed their own version of bills that would ban the sale of certain wildlife parts, including elephant ivory, rhinoceros horn and shark. The bills include some exemptions, including for the age of the ivory and cultural uses.

Lawmakers opposed to the ban said it’s too broad.

“I just think this is a meat-axe approach when it didn’t have to be,” said Sen. Rosalyn Baker, who added the legislation could hurt people who have spent years collecting ivory.

It could also criminalize art forms that have long been a part of the state’s history, she said.

Even today, there are dozens of Hawaii residents who earn a living selling ivory. Ray Peters, who’s lived on Maui since the 1970s, said he’s built his life off scrimshaw, and it will be difficult for him to find another job in his late sixties.

“I will be forced to leave our islands which have been my home for 45 years,” Peters said.

Konrad, who owns Lahaina Scrimshaw, acknowledges the exemptions for antique bone, but says getting documentation to prove ivory is over a century old is difficult. Most ivories weren’t regulated until the 1970s, so ivory imported into the U.S. before then often doesn’t have documentation, she said.

“I just hope to God that we are able to continue on for a few more short years,” Konrad said.

Keith Swindle, a special agent at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Hawaii, said a ban on nearly all ivory is necessary because it’s tricky to tell its age, especially in the form of small carvings or jewelry. Some will stain poached ivory to disguise it as an antique or fossil.

“If I gave you two pieces of ivory, you could not tell them apart if one is legal or illegal,” Swindle said. “So if you have a legal ivory market, it makes it very easy to have a market to illegally launder ivory.”

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      • “I just think this is a meat-axe approach when it didn’t have to be,” said Sen. Rosalyn Baker, who added the legislation could hurt people who have spent years collecting ivory.

        It could also criminalize art forms that have long been a part of the state’s history, she said.

        • Is it NOT criminal to allow these peddlers to sell bootlegged goods creating a market for poachers to continue their illegal trade?

          Keith Swindle puts it in perspective.

          “If I gave you two pieces of ivory, you could not tell them apart if one is legal or illegal,” Swindle said. “So if you have a legal ivory market, it makes it very easy to have a market to illegally launder ivory.”

    • I do not see this has to be handled as some kind of juvenile zero-sum game. Manage ivory just like you would any renewable resource. That’s what it is when you come down to it. If such a resource is threatened, then yes, craft regulations that have the long term goal of ensuring its perpetual renewal so events don’t spiral out of control as they did for the canoe builders on Easter Island. Elephants, whales and walruses, if conserved as living species for future generations, will continue to live and die – and yes, continue to grow tusks. Why not find ways to establish secure game preserves and determine the real cost for hiring the necessary personnel to enforce anti-poaching laws? Trade in ivory at the true cost it takes to “produce” it, and systematically funnel some of the profits to secure the survival of the actual producers, namely the animals we’re all supposed to be concerned about.

      • Interesting Delta…somehow, I don’t think these magnificent creatures (elephants), who normally live 48 to 70 years, should be slaughtered in any event just for their tusks, do you?

        Here is a very brief article by the World Wildlife Fund

        http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/elephants/african_elephants/afelephants_threats/

        and a longer one by National Geographic

        http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140818-elephants-africa-poaching-cites-census/

        which may shed some light onto this very great problem.

      • DeltaDag, you seem to be a ‘numbers’ person. There are game preserves which already exist in Africa, yet poaching is still a significant problem. As long as there’s a demand for any product as in third world countries, poaching (and any word you may select) will continue when it comes down to survival. Poaching even exists in our own world, from illegal fishing and hunting. Deleting the demand by means as you’re suggesting, is indeed noble. However, laws are only as effective as they can be enforced and unfortunately, resources to do so aren’t given the priority it needs, be it in Africa, the mainland, or Hawai’i.

        • The bottom line: if humans aren’t willing to spend what it takes to protect certain species from other humans, then we should all enjoy seeing these species while they’re still here. By the way, third world countries aren’t the main source for the demand for ivory. It’s actually the first world (which includes us) and second world (which includes the PRC and Russia).

  • Whether you like it or not, ivory is a big part of Pacific history with the whalers and native peoples themselves. Enacting a blanket prohibition stretching all the way back into time is to deny and rewrite history. Modern harvesting of ivory except by native peoples is being eliminated, but overseas poachers and certain foreign countries are a problem. So distinctions need to be made and the bills under consideration do not make the appropriate distinctions.

    • Hawaii is the biggest market for illegal ivory in the country now that New York and California have passed bans on trafficking (not possession). The U.S is second only to China in illegal ivory sales. Close the market and you reduce demand, which is driving the slaughter of 96 elephants a day on average. And there are lots of exemptions for selling musical instruments or firearms with ivory components or for people with a record of how they got their ivory. A couple of trinket sellers not being able to sell part of their stock is no excuse for continuing the illegal market and slaughter. Even if the ban is passed, they have almost two years to unload whatever they have in their store.

    • Allowing only native peoples the exclusive right to harvest a given resource is understandable and maybe even noble to an extent, but it’s no secret that humankind, and the includes the first settlers (natives) of any landmass or island, has had a long, long history of depleting its resources, whether by hunting, harvesting or extracting rocks from the earth. We probably don’t see as many European and American megafauna as existed 10,000 years ago because prehistoric humans moved in as they swept out of Africa and Asia. The popular notion of native peoples as tragic figures, as once proud stewards of the land, is largely a recent myth.

      • Native Hawaiians, under its Kapu system did well enough to maintain its resources and its people until western influence intervened. The same can be said of native Americans.

        • koolau, when you last visited the mainland, did you happen to notice any giant ground sloths, sabre tooth cats or woolly mammoths? Didn’t think so. I don’t care to raise the extinctions and extirpations in Hawaii; that would be bursting too many bubbles here.

  • HERE, HERE!! AMEN! To all above–keep those thoughts! And, Happy Easter or Springtime–whatevahs!
    I’m off to Brunch with Friends and Family and then The Ocean! Find yourselves a Fuzzy-Bunny! ENJOY!! ALOHA!

    • The trouble with the ivory trade is that elephants and rhinoceroses are becoming extinct. We, people, are their sole protectors on this earth.

      Cow leather and meat? They are not on the verge of extinction.

  • “I just think this is a meat-axe approach when it didn’t have to be,” said Sen. Rosalyn Baker,
    who added the legislation could hurt people who have spent years collecting ivory.”

    SB 2693, introduced by Sen. Rosalyn Baker, allows transient accommodations brokers like Airbnb
    to register as tax collection agents.

    When asked if small businesses (as a whole) could somehow get a tax credit to help offset the administrative part
    of collecting GET, maintaining a database to track, stamps/envelopes, cost of printing checks, dispersing of tax funds on a quarterly basis OR otherwise suffer a penalty-fine for late-payment.

    She responded , “…no one gets a credit for obeying the law.” Regards,Roz Baker.

    Could this action of supporting her constituents ivory businesses in her jurisdiction (MAUI), in spite of
    all that are in favor of banning ivory (Sen. Mike Gabbard -who introduced the bill,Humane Society of the United States,

    Keith Swindle, a special agent at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Hawaii, California & New York who have already banned
    ivory.), be a strategy in an upcoming election year to help foster her re-election ?

    So when this becomes LAW, Roz , You must ” OBEY THE LAW “.

  • YES! I very much believe ivory should be banned in Hawaiʻi. Native Hawaiian species have been hit hard by extinction (has everyone seen the brand-new exhibit at the Bishop Museum about our native birds? –> Lele o Nā Manu: Hawaiian Forest Birds, http://www.bishopmuseum.org/exhibits/); let’s not be any part of bringing about the extinction of elephants, rhinoceros and other incredible species.

  • You know, elephant and rhino ivory poaching is in such a crisis, the only way to control it may be the total ban on the sale of any ivory, old or new. That certainly takes the money incentive out of the equation.

    • Well, rhinoceros horn is not coveted for the same reason as the various ivories. Rhino horn is really just a form of keratin. It’s today poached to satisfy the market for its supposed aphrodisiac properties in Asian medicine. Which means we could ban its sale here, but the demand for it will continue to flourish in asia or anywhere a sizeable asian population lives. The question becomes one of fully supporting an international ban on so-called “green” rhino horn.

  • If you already own ivory, you should be allowed to keep it, but all sales, whether private or a business, should be banned. Stop the profit motive and you help end the poaching.

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