How the Antiques Roadshow is Hurting Elephants

As part of its 96 Elephants campaign, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is asking PBS’ Antiques Roadshow to stop airing episodes that appraise the value of ivory.

The campaign, which is run by WCS and dozens of partner organizations, is named after the number of elephants who are slaughtered for their ivory every day, which comes out to roughly 35,000 a year.

We were reminded of the heartbreaking and graphic reality of the poaching crisis again this week as a story about six elephants who were gunned down by poachers in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park made headlines. Officials believe it was partly motivated by revenge because four of them were only juveniles who had no value to poachers.

WCS believes that even though the show explains the legal issues surrounding ivory sales, its continued airing of ivory appraisals is helping to fuel the demand and black market by sending the message that ivory is okay and that selling it can be a lucrative niche.

In its effort to raise awareness about what the show is doing and get it to stop promoting ivory, WCS created a satirical video that shows an appraiser discussing the true cost of ivory with an unsuspecting owner.

“Thirty-five thousand elephants were slaughtered last year due to the demand for ivory. We know that the legal trade has a confusing set of loopholes that allows the black market trade to thrive. We believe that Antiques Roadshow has a moral obligation to do the right thing and halt ivory appraisals as this crisis rages on,” said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Director of the 96 Elephants campaign.

International sales of ivory were banned under CITES in 1989, but the loopholes he’s referring to still allow people to own and sell ivory that was imported before that, which is known as ‘pre-ban’ ivory and they allow exemptions for antiques. The problem with that is that no one can tell the difference and allowing some legalized ivory sales on the market offers a cover for the illegal trade. Those issues are further complicated in the U.S. by a patchwork of state and federal laws dealing with ivory sales that confuse people and make law enforcement difficult.

According to WCS, in 2011, an antiques dealer in Philadelphia was convicted of smuggling more than one ton of ivory into the U.S. by disguising it as antique.

“Allowing any carved tusks or worked ivory antique or not into the marketplace furthers the existing loophole for illegal ivory and renders law enforcement ineffective. It sends a message to China and other consumer countries that it’s okay to sell raw and worked ivory, including ‘old’ stockpiles further fueling the elephant poaching crisis. Our message to the public is simple: your family heirloom had its own family don’t let elephants disappear,” said Calvelli.

The bottom line is that no ivory is good ivory and its true cost is always the life of an elephant. Does it really matter when they were killed?

For more info on how to help, visit 96 Elephants.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson4 years ago

As long as people want to make a buck and can, they will.

Sandra Penna
Sandra P4 years ago

thank you.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe4 years ago

Petition signed and shared on Facebook! Thanks Sherri S. for the link!

Maggie D.
Maggie D5 years ago

The BBC, with all the nature programmes and those depicting the cruelty of poaching that it broadcasts, should know better than to show ivory antiques on the Antiques Roadshow. At the very least, they should only show ivory from before 1947, with a reason given.

Lisa J.
Lisa J.5 years ago

Help make noise for elephants! Please sign up for this 96 Elephants Thunderclap and tell Antiques Roadshow to save elephants, not ivory:

Alexandra Ekdahl
Alexandra Ekdahl5 years ago

Than you

Briony Coote
Briony C5 years ago

Ivory is becoming a delicate issue in today's climate. It must make it difficult for antique dealers who are assigned to assess the value of old ivory.

Molly D.
M. C5 years ago

Boycott and write to PBS ! Turn it off your tele !