When the State of New York reviewed its position on ivory sales a few years ago, it invited input from the antiques and auction house industry.
Sotheby’s statement included “Some changes to the current law would be appropriate and may include things like: stiffer penalties for illegal ivory trade”. And from Christies “Christie’s welcomes the strict and regulated [in reality obsolete and ineffective] legal ivory marketplace…Legislation strengthening New York’s licensing process, supporting better enforcement efforts, and increasing penalties for the sale or possession of illegal ivory, may be appropriate.”. While both Sotheby’s and Christie’s supported ‘increased penalties’, neither acknowledge that, while they were making profits from selling these items, the monitoring, policing and prosecution costs aren’t part of their business model. They don’t pay the true cost of the sale, instead the industry is free riding on the trade of endangered species.
When the world talks about ivory and poaching, it tends to talk about elephants, but there are other species that don’t get very much attention. Just one is the hippo, with a 2018 report highlighting similar discrepancies for hippo teeth exported from Uganda to Hong Kong. The missing teeth amounted to 14,000kilograms representing 2,700 individual hippos, some 2% of the global population. One of the authors of this paper, Alexandra Andersson, commented “A quick scan of the records demonstrates that vast and consistent data discrepancies are clear in many cases, and that the true volume of many traded endangered species is simply unknown. This is alarming, considering the reason that all of these species are included in CITES is because they are vulnerable to over-exploitation, and extinction”.