Shocking Undercover Investigation Reveals Illegal Elephant Ivory Sold Throughout Connecticut

Yesterday, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Humane Society International (HSI) released alarming results of an undercover investigation at 29 Connecticut stores, revealing the illicit sale of elephant ivory, as well as bone and teeth from other imperiled species.

Elephant ivory is sourced by horrifically chopping the tusks off the faces of these iconic animals, sometimes while they are still alive, causing unimaginable suffering and an agonizing death. Young elephants are not spared, and global elephant populations are being devastated by this illicit trade.

The November 2023 investigation revealed over 160 items suspected to be carved from ivory for sale at 19 stores in six Connecticut counties. Shop locations included Clinton, Colchester, Fairfield, Farmington, Norwalk, Old Saybrook and others across the state. Of the 22 towns visited, 15 sold ivory, confirming that Connecticut is a thriving ivory market. Items ranged from a $12 broach to a pair of belt charms for $1,250. Other articles included necklaces, earrings, bracelets, statues, napkin holders, game boards, puzzles, a parasol handle, a page turner, and letter openers with elephant imagery carvings.

HSUS and HSI investigators, including a wildlife biologist, were given conflicting explanations regarding the origin of ivory items. Some vendors said items were ‘ivory-like’ but did not know what material they were made from. Others were aware they were selling ivory and claimed the pieces were less than 100 years old. Another vendor attempting to make a sale advised the investigator to “wrap it well and just don’t say anything,” and “you can just say you didn’t know it was ivory.” No vendor provided correct paperwork or the required legal documentation for the ivory during potential sales.

Under federal law, new elephant ivory cannot be imported, exported or sold across state lines. Antique ivory can legally be sold if proper documentation proves it is at least 100 years old. Without proof, the ivory is potentially sourced from illegally killed elephants. Federal law does not address wholly intrastate sales within a state, which is why state laws are critical to close the loophole in local markets like Connecticut.

“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,” said Annie Hornish, Connecticut state director for HSUS. “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.”

“Ivory products are smuggled into the U.S., including new ivory that was recently hacked off the faces of endangered African elephants. Federal law doesn’t cover intrastate sales, which creates a patchwork of legal confusion,” said Kathryn Kullberg, director of marine and wildlife protection for HSUS. “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.”

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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