Sales of ivory in Hawaii might be banned by lawmakers concerned about preventing illegal trade. Even legitimate businesses in the state, like Lahaina Scrimshaw, operated by Cheryl Konrad, who deals in scrimshaw on fossilized walrus and mammoth ivory and who educates their customers in the art and history of scrimshaw, might be included under the proposed ban by the lawmakers of Hawaii.
Konrad sells scrimshaw, or etchings on ivory, done by local artists using legal ivory, according to the Washington Post. That is the only type of ivory products that she sells at Lahaina Scrimshaw. She is worried that if a bill to ban ivory sales becomes voted on and made law in Hawaii that her local business might be forced to close.
When Konrad contemplated the possible closure of her store, if the bill passes and the sale of all ivory becomes illegal, she said it is hard to fathom that the sale of ivory could become criminal. She feels like she has been a part of history.
Such bills have been proposed in the past, but have not gotten passed due, in large part, to the protests of local merchants who sell ivory jewelry and carvings in their stores. However, lawmakers in Hawaii might reconsider and pass a recent bill that has come before them banning sales of ivory, in an effort to show that the people of the state are against the poaching of elephants in Africa.
The bill was introduced in the Senate by Hawaii state Sen. Mike Gabbard (D), who represents Kapolei. He said he thinks they have a good chance of getting the bill passed.
New York and California have banned the sales of ivory altogether, though they still remain the top two ivory markets in the United States. According to the Humane Society of the United States, Hawaii is the third-largest ivory market and could become the largest one in the U.S. if it is left unregulated.
There is a poaching crisis in the world, and the poaching of African elephants is now at its highest level since 2002, when international organizations began keeping a record of it. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that, in Africa, between 2010 and 2012, approximately 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory.
The House and Senate in Hawaii have already passed their own versions of the bill. They ban the sales of shark, rhinoceros horn, and elephant ivory, but include exemptions for the age of the ivory and antique bone and for cultural purposes, according to the Lebanon Daily Record.
One of the lawmakers who is not in favor of the newly proposed bill is state Sen. Rosalyn Baker. She said that the bill might even affect people who have collected ivory legally for years. She worried that the bill might also make certain art forms like scrimshaw illegal in the aloha state, where they have been a part of the state’s proud history.
Hawaii U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent, Keith Swindle, believes that since it is difficult sometimes to determine the age of ivory, that sales of all ivory should be banned. He mentioned it can be difficult to determine how old ivory is, especially in the case of items like jewelry or small carvings. Poached ivory is often stained to make it look as if it is antique or fossilized, according to Beatrice Daily News.
Though there are many merchants in Hawaii who have shops that currently sell antique and fossilized ivory legally, that might become a thing of the past if a bill that has been proposed to ban the sale of all ivory gets passed. Local merchants who sell items made out of ivory like scrimshaw, jewelry, and small carvings are worried that if the bill becomes law, they will be put out of business.
By John Samuels
Photo Courtesy Google Earth