Art Dealer Charged After "One of the Largest American Seizures of Elephant Ivory on Record"


Photo credit: US Attorney's Office

A Philadelphia-based art dealer has been charged with smuggling an entire ton of ivory into the United States. The ivory is believed to have come from the poaching of hundreds of threatened African elephants. It's one of the largest seizures of ivory on record, according to the US attorney's office. And it was a deliberate, well-orchestrated operation, too.

The New York Times reveals how it worked:

A Philadelphia art and antiquities dealer, Victor Gordon, was arraigned on smuggling charges in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday after, the authorities said, they seized about a ton of carved ivory that he had had a confederate bring into Kennedy in his luggage between 2006 and 2009.

Mr. Gordon, 68, had his agent purchase raw ivory and get it carved and then stained or dyed so that it appeared old and therefore not subject to endangered species law, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said. He then sold the carved tusks through his shop in Philadelphia, Victor Gordon Enterprises, they said.

He's also charged with violating the Endangered Species Act, and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

In the modern era, where conservationists focus more of their efforts on stopping the black market trade of animal parts in Asia and Africa, incidents like this should be read as unfortunate wake-up calls. Like to the fact that there's evidently still a thriving demand for ivory products in the United States.

Who are these ivory connoisseurs, might I ask? Who still insists on having real ivory knick knacks in what I can only imagine are their musty parlors? I guess these people are like those older ladies who parade around downtown New York in fur coats, oblivious to long-ago evolved fashion trends and societal norms. They're stuck in some parallel popular culture universe (one that's stuck in the 1920s) where that stuff is still glamorous. Sadly, their make-believe lifestyles are having a real-world impact -- and deadly consequences for some of the planet's most beloved animals.

More on Ivory Smuggling
200 Pounds of Smuggled Ivory Seized From Bangkok Airport
Illegal Ivory Trade on the Rise as Organized Crime Syndicates Strengthen

Tags: Conservation | Endangered Species

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