New US elephant ivory market study helps agencies better regulate trade

African elephant on a white background

On July 6, 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) imposed a “near-total ban” on imports, exports, and domestic trade of African elephant ivory. A year later, TRAFFIC, WWF, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare released a study that established a baseline picture of that market in the US.

Sour notes

The single most common kind of item advertised? Antique pianos with ivory keys, for which the study identified 205 online classified ads.

The study surveyed physical markets and online classified advertisements in Boston; Los Angeles; New York; Portland, OR; San Francisco; and Washington, DC. It also documented the availability, quantity, and price of elephant ivory on six major e-commerce sites.

The findings led to recommendations that could help US law enforcement agencies better regulate the trade, and help US e-commerce companies and other retailers implement the new rules imposed by the USFWS ban.

“Our investigations show that the US ivory market was hit hard by the regulations, but also that there’s been a shift to more anonymous online sales,” says Crawford Allan, senior director at TRAFFIC. “We found some bad actors out there, too—New York authorities seized two tons of ivory worth over $5 million, half of which was from stores uncovered by our investigations. This all sends a strong message that the US is taking action to enforce the new rules.”

Of the 1,589 elephant ivory items that were documented, the most commonly sold items were household items, jewelry, and figurines.


Ivory Buddha statuekrasowit/shutterstock


Ivory necklaceVolodymyr Nikitenko/shutterstock

household items

Ivory knife and forkTarzhanova/Shutterstock

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