Press Release

New Report Reveals Thriving Undocumented Ivory Market in Hawaii

HONOLULU (March 3, 2016) —The online trade in ivory and related wildlife products is rampant in Hawaii, which remains one of the United States’ major markets for ivory, according to a new report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Humane Society International (HSI), The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).  

The report is the product of a recent “snap shot” investigation of online retailers in Hawaii. In just six days, investigators found more than 1,800 advertisements for ivory jewelry, carved walrus tusks, scrimshawed elephant toenails. All told, more than 4,600 items – worth more than $1.2 million – were offered for sale. The overwhelming majority of products were advertised as elephant ivory and could have been illegal, as they lacked evidence proving that the tusks and carvings had been imported in accordance with federal law.

“The lack of documentation from these online retailers potentially allows recently poached ivory to be sold side by side with truly antique ivory, confusing law enforcement officers and consumers alike,” said Jeff Flocken, North American regional director, International Fund for Animal Welfare. “It’s far too easy for legal and illegal ivory to coexist in the market place. If elephants are to have a chance of survival, the ivory trade needs to go extinct.”

On average, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its tusks. The past 15 years has seen soaring market prices for ivory products, largely due to a growing middle class in China and other Asian countries where ivory products have significant cultural value. The U.S. is also one of the top consumers of ivory, and the federal government is working to close the loopholes that have allowed the illegal ivory market to flourish. A number of states have also passed ivory bans, including New York, New Jersey and California.

“Majestic animals like elephants should not be reduced to ivory trinkets or a pair of earrings. The flourishing illegal ivory trade is a stain on the Aloha State’s conservation legacy and should be eliminated, once and for all,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.

“Dozens of flights and ships enter Hawaiian ports and airports daily from across Asia and the Pacific, making the state a potential illegal ivory trade hub,” said Elly Pepper, Wildlife Advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “New York and California have passed ivory bans in the last two years, leaving Hawaii as probably the largest remaining black market in the United States. Hawaii should do its part to end the crisis and protect African elephants by shutting down the state’s ivory market.”

"Hawaii is poised to play a key role in ending the illegal ivory trade in the U.S., " said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and director of WCS's 96 Elephants Campaign.  "The research clearly shows that Hawaii's illegal ivory market is thriving.  The time is now to close this market once and for all and help save elephants from extinction."  

Read the complete report here.


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC

About IFAW
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Humane Society International
Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations. For more than 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide – on the Web at hsi.org.

About The Humane Society of the United States
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated most effective by our peers. For 60 years, we have celebrated the protection of all animals and confronted all forms of cruelty. We are the nation’s largest provider of hands-on services for animals, caring for more than 100,000 animals each year, and we prevent cruelty to millions more through our advocacy campaigns. Read more about our 60 years of transformational change for animals, and visit us online at humanesociety.org.

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