Threat to Hawaii tourism due to Hawaii’s role in blood ivory trade


Some are already calling to boycott travel and tourism to the Aloha State, Hawaii. Tourism is the biggest industry for the 50th state. Should this industry be put in danger to allow another industry to prosper in the dealing with blood ivory?

As a major commercial hub for the Asia-Pacific region, Hawaii has long been considered one of the United States’ biggest markets for ivory sales – and, therefore, one of this country’s prime drivers of the elephant poaching crisis. In this groundbreaking study, investigators with IFAW; the Wildlife Conservation Society, Natural Resources Defense Council; and the Humane Society International seek to uncover a previously-marginalized, but crucial, aspect of the trade: online ivory sales. The results are startling, and paint a fuller picture of Hawaii’s role in one of the most pressing conservation issues of our time.

The online trade in ivory and related wildlife products is rampant in Hawaii, which remains one of the United States’ major markets for ivory, according to a new report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Humane Society International (HSI), The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report is the product of a recent “snap shot” investigation of online retailers in Hawaii. In just six days, investigators found more than 1,800 advertisements for ivory jewelry, carved walrus tusks, scrimshawed elephant toenails. All told, more than 4,600 items – worth more than $1.2 million – were offered for sale. The overwhelming majority of products were advertised as elephant ivory and could have been illegal, as they lacked evidence proving that the tusks and carvings had been imported in accordance with federal law.

“The lack of documentation from these online retailers potentially allows recently poached ivory to be sold side by side with truly antique ivory, confusing law enforcement officers and consumers alike,” said Jeff Flocken, North American regional director, International Fund for Animal Welfare. “It’s far too easy for legal and illegal ivory to coexist in the market place. If elephants are to have a chance of survival, the ivory trade needs to go extinct.”

On average, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its tusks. The past 15 years has seen soaring market prices for ivory products, largely due to a growing middle class in China and other Asian countries where ivory products have significant cultural value. The U.S. is also one of the top consumers of ivory, and the federal government is working to close the loopholes that have allowed the illegal ivory market to flourish. A number of states have also passed ivory bans, including New York, New Jersey and California.

“Majestic animals like elephants should not be reduced to ivory trinkets or a pair of earrings. The flourishing illegal ivory trade is a stain on the Aloha State’s conservation legacy and should be eliminated, once and for all,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.

“Dozens of flights and ships enter Hawaiian ports and airports daily from across Asia and the Pacific, making the state a potential illegal ivory trade hub,” said Elly Pepper, Wildlife Advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “New York and California have passed ivory bans in the last two years, leaving Hawaii as probably the largest remaining black market in the United States. Hawaii should do its part to end the crisis and protect African elephants by shutting down the state’s ivory market.”

“Hawaii is poised to play a key role in ending the illegal ivory trade in the U.S., ” said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and director of WCS’s 96 Elephants Campaign. “The research clearly shows that Hawaii’s illegal ivory market is thriving. The time is now to close this market once and for all and help save elephants from extinction.”