In February of last year, armed wardens of the California Department of Fish and Game descended on an auction preview hosted by Slawinski Auction Company. The wardens seized 40 lots of ivory with a market value of about $150,000.
Slawinski employees claimed that there were about 20 wardens, armed and in uniform. Owner Bob Slawinski said that his younger employees were “intimidated and shaken” by the display of force. Fish & Game spokesman Patrick Foy laughed at the notion that there were so many wardens, saying “I doubt we’re able to get 25 uniformed and armed officers together in this state at one time. That’s a little over the top.”
Over the top or not, for the past year California has cracked down on the sale of ivory, as well as other animal parts and trophies. California Fish & Game wardens have raided auctions, flea markets and antique dealers. They have executed complicated “stings” to arrest Craigslist and eBay sellers.
This lot of pre-ban ivory is no longer saleable without proof that it is more than 100 years old.
Although it has been illegal to sell ivory in California since 1970, ivory sales are now an enforcement priority. U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.) intends to make the penalties for dealing in ivory even tougher than they currently are by making it prosecutable under statutes used for other felonies such as drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering.
Despite California’s tough stance for the past year, dealers who regularly sell ivory have found ways to work-around the situation. But, a “California work-around” is no longer possible.
On Feb. 11, 2014 the Federal government instituted a “near complete ban” on the commercial sale of African elephant ivory in the United States. The U.S. ban currently does not include ivory from Asian elephants or from whale bone and teeth. California makes no such distinction. Other states are considering tighter restraints on ivory sales, notably New York. Read More…