By Ashley Moser
State is third largest ivory retailer in United States
HONOLULU --A popular type of jewelry in Hawaii could be cleared off the shelves.
The state is the third largest ivory retailer in the United States, but to many dealing with the material is similar to dealing in blood.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service destroys ivory confiscated from illegal imports. During the past decade, it has seized six tons of ivory.
“We were showing the world that we are serious about endangered species,” said Anthony Palermo of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Species such as elephants and rhinoceros are killed for their ivory. Only 10 percent to 20 percent of the contraband is seized. The rest gets through and often to the United States.
“They can be easily smuggled in a bag or transported or things like that,” Palermo said. “But again, you got to start somewhere.”
Inga Gibson, who works with the Humane Society of the United States, said Hawaii is the perfect place to start.
Hawaii is an Asian-Pacific hub where materials from animals are traded on the way to the mainland. She said it’s the third largest market in the nation and largest online.
Under federal law, only specific pieces of ivory can travel between states. Each needs proper documents indicating which species the piece came from, when and from where it was acquired.
Gibson said that’s not happening enough.
“Anyone who is legitimately selling these items should already have it in their possession, but unfortunately what we are finding in our research is that there is no such documentation,” she said.
Gibson said banning all ivory sales in Hawaii would clear the situation.
“The only way to save these critical keystone species is to end the sale and hence the demands of their products,” she said.
In the 1940s, Ming’s Jewelry made up much of the states’ ivory jewelry sales. However, when the federal government established a ban on Asian elephant ivory in 1976 and on African ivory in 1990, much of that production slowed, making pieces carved prior to those dates more valuable.
Linda Lee collects and appraises ivory. She said she is worried some jewelers will look for ways around the law, possibly labeling it as faux to get a sale.
“If you look at ivory, you will see grain on it and there’s, like, layers, you know, kind of a clear area and off-white area,” she said. “That grain is how we recognize ivory.”
State lawmakers fighting for the ban said first recognizing the problem is what will stop poaching around the world.
“We just need to look at ways that our society deals with animals inhumanely,” said state Sen. Will Espero. “And killing them just for trinkets to decorate our homes and businesses is not correct and right.”
The potential ban will be introduced in January. The Humane Society said it wants an all-out ban, but said it realizes there might be compromises involved. Video.