19 Connecticut stores found participating in illegal sale of elephant ivory

Jan 26, 2024 | News

By Fox61

Nineteen stores in six Connecticut counties were found illegally selling over 160 items carved from elephant ivory, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

An undercover investigation in November 2023 of 29 stores across Connecticut found ivory products being sold at stores in 15 towns “from Branford to Clinton, Glastonbury to Old Saybrook, and points in between,” according to the HSUS.

The process of obtaining the ivory through chopping off elephants’ tusks causes “unimaginable suffering” and an “agonizing death,” devastating the elephant population, the HSUS said.

Selling, importing, or exporting ivory products is illegal under federal law. Antique ivory can be sold with documentation that proves it is at least 100 years old, but without proof, there is a possibility that the product was sourced from the illegal killing of an elephant, the HSUS said.

According to the HSUS, some of the sellers were reportedly aware about the law and advised an investigator to hide the items and to pretend they were unaware about the material of the products. Other merchants claimed that they did not know about the laws regarding selling ivory products or that they needed documentation.

“Each year, 10,000 to 15,000 elephants are killed by poachers in Africa to supply the demand for their ivory. Our investigation reveals that Connecticut buyers and sellers are directly contributing to the global illegal ivory trade,” Annie Hornish, Connecticut state director for the HSUS, said. “We must join the 13 states and Washington D.C. that have passed laws to prohibit the sale of ivory. Connecticut cannot continue to allow illegal ivory into our local markets and perpetuate more elephant deaths and criminal activity. Lawmakers are doing the right thing by prioritizing this critical issue and introducing a bill that would ban the sale of parts of at-risk species.”

Items sold included necklaces, earrings, bracelets, statues, napkin holders, game boards, puzzles, and letter openers with elephant imagery carvings. The HSUS said prices for items sold ranged from a $12 broach to a pair of belt charms for $1,250.

“Ivory products are smuggled into the U.S., including new ivory that was recently hacked off the faces of endangered African elephants,” Kathryn Kullberg, director of marine and wildlife protection for the HSUS, said. “Federal law doesn’t cover intrastate sales, which creates a patchwork of legal confusion. If Connecticut passes a state law to help close these loopholes, we can work towards stemming the global poaching crisis. A trinket is not worth extinction.”

More information on the undercover investigation can be found here.

State representatives Nicole Klarides-Ditria (R – Co-Chair Animal Advocacy Caucus) and David Michel (D – Co-Chair Animal Advocacy Caucus) said Wednesday that they will introduce and advocate a bill to ban the trade of ivory sourced from elephants and other wildlife following the investigation.

“Connecticut must act to align state law with federal law to ensure that our state is not a safe haven for the illegal ivory trade and other wildlife trafficking. This despicable activity is causing the unnecessary and inhumane death of magnificent creatures in the wild,” said Rep. Michel. “I commend the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International for its work to uncover this issue in our neighborhoods. It is now up to lawmakers to take action to protect these animals, consumers, and vendors.”

Rep. Klarides-Ditria said, “I am disgusted by anyone who willfully injures an animal, and those who traffic ivory must be held accountable for their despicable actions. As legislators, we have the power to strengthen state laws to make the protection of ALL animals more effective. I applaud the Humane Society for shining a light on these disgusting practices and look forward to working with my colleagues to craft stronger laws to assist in the prosecution and lengthy convictions of anyone who harms an animal.”


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