Friday, 29 January 2016

"Ecologists Do Not Study Ivories, Collectors Do"

The current issue of the magazine Tusks Week (for collectors of scrimshaw, netsuke and other carvings of elephant ivory) has a revealing article in the which highlights the problems of the attitudes of dealers towards conservation of the resource ('The Modern Ivory Collection – A Tusks Week Exclusive with Hassan B. Jerk', January 28, 2016 ). This Harlem dealer was asked:
it seems that the greatest threat to the hobby is the growing tide of legal and administrative restrictions on the collecting, importation, and trade in ivory and other animal products – usually in response to instability and warfare in different parts of the world. Is this reaction called for? How do collectors and dealers stay on the right side of the issue?
The dealer dodges the question:
HBJ: This is all the work of ecologists. What they say sounds good, but it is not good. They say that all ivory objects should go to the country of origin and no one should be able to collect them. But the fact is, all of the good books and articles about ivories and netsuke etc are written by collectors. Ecologists don’t study or care much about tusks. But collectors do. Ivories circulated all over the world in the past. They were not confined to one geographic space. Ivories traveled. I’ve never been offered anything that has come from ISIS. And if I was, I’d never buy it. One time, I was offered an ivory carving that most certainly came out of a museum. I told the guy to never call me again and I sent a picture of the object to the feds. No dealer wants to trade in that stuff. As for the proposed laws, most are written by people who know nothing about tusks… and they do this for attention.
What actually is this dealer saying here? That dealers and collectors need not bother about the effects on the elephant population of the no questions-asked buying of material of unknown collecting history because "ivory travelled"? Is really the only thing this dealer has understood of the public concern and debate about the market for ivory and rhino horn is that "ecologists want the objects to go back to the source country"? How distorted a picture of the real concerns is that? This is not just about "repatriation". 

Any ban would be the result of dealers and collectors repeatedly showing that they cannot understand the issues of concern and refuse to take any action to counteract the problems their trade involves. How much longer can we afford to be patient with the non-arguments and deflections of the dealers and their lobbyists?

To STOP the illicit trade in ivory, we need to STOP those who will buy it from dodgy sources no questions asked. If dealers and collectors will not do it themselves, then they need to be compelled, (and one way to do that is to impose a total ban). Now is the time for responsible dealers and collectors to take responsibility for the shape of the modern antiquities trade. There is no place for dinosaurs.

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