Elephant ivory seized during a massive New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) led crackdown on the illegal ivory trade is now on display at the New York State Museum. The display is a reminder of the rampant and continued slaughter of the African elephant, rhinoceros, and other iconic endangered species that fuel the transnational illegal trade in wildlife.
“The senseless and horrific poaching of these awe-inspiring animals to create trinkets and trophies is grotesque,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in announcing the exhibit. “New York City remains the nation’s largest port of entry for illegal wildlife goods and DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement is working diligently to stop the businesses fueling the trade. DEC cannot do this work alone and this new display at the New York State Museum will shed light on a decades-long crisis that threatens the very existence of elephants and rhinoceros and encourage museum visitors to join us in the fight against poachers and sellers of illegal ivory.”
From 2015 to 2018, DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement launched an undercover operation in New York City dubbed “Operation White Gold,” focusing on high-end antique dealers and wholesale distributors throughout the five boroughs. Operation White Gold resulted in the largest-ever crackdown on the illegal ivory trade in New York State history with 18 corporations and 25 associated individuals charged with felony-level crimes.
In addition, DEC Officers executed multiple search warrants and seized thousands of pieces of illegal elephant ivory, ranging from jewelry and small statues to five and seven-foot raw tusks, that make up a multi-billion-dollar-per-year industry. The seized ivory weighed in at nearly two tons and had a combined market value of more than $12 million. DEC destroyed most of the seized ivory in a massive crush in New York City’s Central Park in 2017. Video is available on DEC’s YouTube page.
In 2014, New York State strengthened its laws on interstate ivory sales, increasing penalties against buyers and sellers whose actions further endanger elephant populations worldwide. Since the law took effect, DEC enforcement has focused on the illegal ivory trade and resulted in charges against approximately 40 corporations and 75 individuals, including those brought down during Operation White Gold.”
Today, Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) routinely conduct unannounced and undercover visits of retail stores and wholesale dealers throughout New York State to ensure that ivory is not being sold or trafficked illegally.
The New York State Museum is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 am to 5 pm. More information on New York State ivory laws can be found here.
To contact an ECO or Investigator to report an environmental crime or to report an incident, call 1-844-DEC-ECOS for 24-hour dispatch or email firstname.lastname@example.org (for non-urgent violations).
Photos, from above: seized elephant ivory and a display at the New York State Museum (provided).