To the chagrin of New York antiques and tribal art dealers, lawmakers in Albany have voted to outlaw the sale of virtually all items containing more than small amounts of elephant ivory, mammoth ivory or rhinoceros horn. One assemblyman said that the bill would help rescue elephants from “ruthless poaching operations run by terrorists and organized crime.” Everybody of course knows that the real threat to elephants and rhinos comes from the enormous illicit market in tusks and horns based in China and other Asian nations, so this bill won’t change anything. As Clinton Howell, president of the Art and Antique Dealers League of America, said: “It is masterful self-deception to think the elephant can be saved by banning ivory in New York”.
Crucial to the bill is a section that outlaws the sale of all ivory objects unless an item is both at least 100 years old and consists of less than 20 percent ivory. Federal rules require that items be 100 years old but do not set any content restrictions.
As a result, a carved tusk or rhino horn from the 19th century, which would be well over 20 percent in content, could be sold under federal rules, but not in New York. (Both state and federal laws exempt ivory-based musical instruments owned before 1975).
The bill would also make it a felony to deal in banned ivory or horn that is valued at $25,000 or more.