An investigation by the Humane Society of the United States uncovered products of imperiled species, notably elephant ivory jewelry and collectibles, for sale throughout Maryland. The Maryland General Assembly is expected to review H.B. 686/S.B. 560, legislation designed to save vulnerable species and combat wildlife crime, in committee hearings on Feb. 15 and Feb. 21.

Significant findings during the investigation include:

  • At least 30 sellers at antique stores and malls, auction companies, consignment stores and jewelers across Maryland had elephant ivory items and leopard fur for sale.
  • Stores located throughout the state, including in Frederick, Howard, Montgomery and Washington counties, as well as in Baltimore and Annapolis, were selling items made of elephant ivory.
  • Several items seemed to be made of elephant ivory that did not appear to be antique. With only one exception, none of the sellers offering ivory or leopard fur items could provide documentation verifying the age or origin of the ivory products, making it impossible to know if the products were imported in violation of federal law.
  • Several sellers came to the Baltimore Art Antique and Jewelry Show from other states—including New York, where the sale of ivory is illegal. Federal law prohibits import, export and interstate sales of African elephant ivory with limited exceptions for bona fide antiques, items that are 100 years and older.
  • When asked, many sellers claimed ignorance of existing laws regulating the sale of ivory, and others seemed to deliberately confuse or mislead investigators.

The HSUS conducted the investigation between August and December 2016. Investigators found ivory items, including jewelry, carved statues and tusks, and a leopard skin, offered for sale in stores in Annapolis, Baltimore, Columbia, Frederick, Hagerstown, Havre de Grace, Kensington, Laurel, New Market, Savage and Towson.

H.B. 686/S.B. 560 will prohibit the sale of products and parts from sea turtles, elephants, rhinos, lions, great apes and other threatened or endangered species. Passage of this legislation will ensure Maryland does not provide a local market for animal products resulting from international poaching and trafficking and Maryland consumers do not unwittingly contribute to the illegal wildlife trade.

Emily Hovermale, Maryland state director for the HSUS, said: “We discovered that elephant ivory and other products of imperiled species are readily available in Maryland, and legislators have the opportunity to end the sale of these products in our state by passing H.B. 686/S.B. 560. These bills will protect imperiled species around the world by removing the financial incentive to kill these animals and trade in their parts.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a near-total ban in the interstate trade in ivory in 2016 and Congress last year enacted the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act to crack down on international wildlife trafficking. But states must also do their part to ensure that their laws sufficiently protect endangered animals. California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington have passed similar anti-wildlife trafficking laws—with voters in Oregon and Washington approving statewide ballot measures on the issue by 70-30 margins in both states.

By passing H.B. 686/S.B. 560, Maryland will build on this momentum by shutting down local markets for those seeking to profit from these destructive practices and complementing international and federal efforts to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade and combat wildlife crime.

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