Recently, two New York jewelers were forced to pay $55,000 in fines and forfeit over $2 million dollars of illegal ivory trinkets when they were caught by an off-duty wildlife inspector. While this looks like a huge blow to the illegal ivory trade, it is only the tip of the iceberg. The jewelers were caught by accident, and had been selling ivory out in the open, despite New York’s strict ivory laws.
The US Department of Fish and Wildlife Services controls ivory sales, which are, for the most part, illegal, and only ivory obtained before African elephants were put on the endangered species list in 1978 may be sold, if the seller has obtained a permit. Only an estimated 450,000 elephants remain in Africa, down from between five and ten million in the 1930s, and last year, ivory from at least 2,500 elephants was seized globally.