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New York City Wrongly Believes Destroying Ivory Saves Elephants




As I explain to my micro principles students each semester, if New York wants to save elephants, they would keep ivory on the market, increasing its supply and reducing its price, thereby reducing the incentive for poachers to kill elephants. [I first saw this argument made in the Baumol and Blinder text that I used many of years ago in my micro principles classes.]



(p. A19) A loud rumble and giant billows of dust interrupted an otherwise serene day in Central Park on Thursday as hundreds of cream-colored carvings of dragons, Buddhas and horses awaited their public execution.

Onlookers waved paper fans reading "Protect their home." They cheered as sculptures and jewelry made from elephant tusks were carried on a conveyor belt and dropped in a pulverizer.

Brian Hackett, an animal-welfare activist from New Jersey, patiently awaited his turn to choose a carving from a table to be destroyed. For him, the mood was solemn.

"Every piece, no matter how polished, represents a beautiful animal that was slaughtered," Mr. Hackett said.

The carvings were confiscated in recent ivory busts in New York. They once belonged on the faces of a least 100 slaughtered elephants. Nearly two tons of ivory worth about $8 million was destroyed at the "Ivory Crush" event, which was timed to precede World Elephant Day on Aug. 12 [2017].


. . .


Rachel Karr, 48, the owner of Hyde Park Antiques on the Lower East Side, who specializes in 18th-century antiques, said the ivory-crushing events upset her and other antique collectors because some of the ivory found in bona fide antiques could be 300 to 400 years old and could have religious and historic value. For example, in teapots from the 18th century, the handles were carved from ivory to protect hands from burns, because ivory does not conduct heat.

"Even with my love of nature, I simply cannot understand what good it does to destroy things that were worked on 300, 400 years ago before conservation was part of daily language," Ms. Karr said.

"Face it, we're the original recyclers, antique dealers," she said. "We have no interest in using new ivory at all. We are willing to say we aren't willing to use it to repair old ivory."

Sam Wasser, a professor at the University of Washington who has performed forensic analysis on seized ivory for the last 13 years and analyzed the ivory that was crushed, said it was unlikely the destroyed carvings were more than 100 years old. The results are pending.

Iris Ho, who is the wildlife campaigns manager at Humane Society International, said the existing law does enough to protect antiques. The law provides exceptions for antiques that are determined to be at least 100 years old with only a small amount of ivory.



For the full story, see:

Hannah Alani. "Ivory Is Destroyed to Save Elephants." The New York Times (Friday, Aug. 4, 2017): A19.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 3, 2017, and has the title "About $8 Million of Elephant Ivory Destroyed in Central Park." The online version says that the article appeared on p. A21 of the New York edition. It appeared on p. A19 of my copy of the National Edition.)






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