It can be found in pianos, gun handles and expensive, decorative household items, but ivory is no longer as easy to come by as it used to be. Because of the danger to the animals ivory is derived from, laws have been put into effect that either regulate or outlaw the sale of ivory.
Prohibited and Non-Prohibited Ivory
Whether or not ivory sales are prohibited usually depends on the animal from which it is taken. According to Heidi Robichaud, the importation of sperm whale ivory has been prohibited by the Mammal Protection Act since 1973. In order to sell this ivory within the United States, a special federal permit must be obtained. Walrus ivory is put into two categories: ivory that predates the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and ivory that came after the act. Walrus ivory predating the act is legal to buy, possess and sell. However, walrus ivory dated after the act is not legal to buy or sell unless both parties are Eskimo.
Understanding Elephant Ivory Law
Elephant ivory has been one of most abundant sources of ivory over the years. Elephant ivory law can be confusing because the legality of elephant ivory is dictated by where the elephants come from. According to Ruby Lane, African elephant ivory products already in the country can be sold and moved freely between states but it cannot be imported or exported. All trade of Asian elephant ivory, on the other hand, is prohibited. The website states that the sale of even one piece of Asian elephant ivory could result in thousands of dollars in fines. Robichaud states that mammoth and mastodon ivory, although considered fossilised because it can be up to 12,000 years old, is practically identical to elephant ivory. Even though mammoth and mastodon ivory is extremely rare, the commerce of this ivory is completely unrestricted due to its age.
Robichaud states that all international orders of oosik, fossil walrus, hippopotamus and warthog ivory shipped out of the U.S. require a £19 permit per shipment. The process is lengthy and usually takes anywhere from 30 to 45 days to complete. Mammoth and mastodon ivories do not require this permit. Inside the U.S., shipments are regulated on state and federal levels. Robichaud explains that each state has a Department of Fish and Wildlife or Game Department located in the state capital. Any purchase or resale of ivory should first be checked with a state's game department.