NYC Antique Shop Busted With $4.5 Million In Illegal Ivory

Shop owners told customers that items were made from mammoth ivory.

Credit: Louis Lanzano

Credit: Louis Lanzano

Metropolitan Fine Arts and Antiques, which is based in Manhattan, was just caught attempting to sell millions of dollars worth of ivory in their store. The purchasing and sale of ivory is illegal in the United States, and in most of the world, and the store owners in this case have now been charged with illegal commercialization of wildlife.

The case is the largest ivory bust in New York state’s history, which is not something to boast about. As the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation pointed out on Twitter, the world loses approximately 96 elephants every single day to poachers who are looking to profit from the ivory in their tusks.

“The conduct alleged in this case is abhorrent,” said New York District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr., in a statement. “As the international elephant population hovers near extinction, too many ivory traders continue to profit from the slaughter of these beautiful, defenseless animals.”

Credit: Julie Larsen Maher

Credit: Julie Larsen Maher

Officials who raided the store found 126 pieces of ivory for sale with an estimated value of over $4.5 million. The store was found to be in violation of the anti-ivory law that was strengthened back in 2014. The revised law stated that the sale of any ivory is not permitted and exemptions exist only for sellers who can prove that it over 100 years and constructed of less than 20 percent ivory.

The sellers were unable to provide evidence of this, and were even selling two pairs of uncarved elephant tusks from two African elephants valued at $200,000 and $150,000.

Officials plan to destroy these tusks and the remaining 122 pieces as part of Department of Environmental Conservation’s Ivory Crush event on World Elephant in August 2017. It’s important to destroy illegal ivory as a way to convey that ivory will not continue to be circulated for profit and has no economic value, as Kenya demonstrated earlier this year when they confiscated and burned 106 tons of ivory.

Credit: Wildlife Conservation Society

Credit: Wildlife Conservation Society

It’s believed that the shop has been illegally selling ivory since at least 2007. The department that busted the shop officially discovered the ivory in November 2015, when two undercover cops purchased an ivory carving and were falsely told that it was made from mammoth ivory. After purchasing it for $2,000, the item was analyzed and found to be made of elephant ivory.

The illegal wildlife trade, which is the black market where ivory is sold and purchased, is estimated to be worth $7 to $23 billion annually. Nearly 100,000 elephants die every year now from this horrible trade, but more and more countries are stepping up to put an end to it.

“My office and our DEC partners will do everything we can locally to protect this endangered species and end this moral, ecological and geopolitical crisis,” Vance said. “In Manhattan, that means advocating for tougher laws, and aggressively prosecuting those who violate them.”

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