Once a Global Hub for Ivory, Connecticut Reckons With Proposed Rules Restricting Trade



By PATRICK SKAHILL • JUL 30, 2015

The new rules are designed to protect African elephants from illegal poaching.
Some wonder if the state has a moral debt to pay for its complicity in a decades-old global ivory trade.
On a recent visit to Kenya, President Obama proposed changes to U.S. laws governing the sale of ivory.
The measure is largely in response to a poaching crisis that's pushing elephants, rhinos, and other species to the brink of extinction.
Connecticut was once a hub for the global ivory trade, so musicians and museums are wondering what the future holds for their ivory-containing instruments, art, and antiques.
For decades during the 1800s, Deep River, Connecticut and neighboring Ivoryton were the center of America's ivory trade. Up to 100,000 elephants a year were killed for their ivory and their tusks transported by slaves to the lower Connecticut river valley, where the ivory was processed into piano keys, buttons, and combs.
The proposed rule would result in a near-total ban on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory. It was originally announced months ago, but provoked a backlash from museum owners and musicians, who said it would render many of their objects worthless.
"Well, the reaction was I think was one of dismay -- ranging from dismay to horror," said James Goldberg, a lawyer with the National Association of Music Merchants, an association that advocates for the music products industry.
Goldberg said it's been decades since ivory was put into instruments, but he's concerned that even antique instruments couldn't be sold. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is relaxing some of the stricter parts of its original rule.
For example, it will allow for the sale of certain objects with less than 200 grams of ivory. "And for musical instruments that’s important to us because that takes guitars, I think most pianos, and violin bows, out of the "banned" category," Goldberg said. "We’re still looking at the impact on such other instruments as bassoons, oboes, bagpipes, and a variety of other instruments."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also said it's considering exempting museums from the ban on interstate ivory commerce, but it hasn't decided yet.
Susan Talbott is director at the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, which houses hundreds of pieces of art containing ivory. Things like sculptures, tableware, and an array of Samuel Colt handguns with ivory grips and inlays.
Talbott said she supports the spirit of the law and doesn't want to see poaching of elephants, but intestimony on a similar ivory trade proposal that came up in the Connecticut during last legislative session, she also said she doesn't want audiences to miss out on artistically and historically important works of ivory either.
"We sometimes lend these works to other museums," Talbott said. "We also borrow works that contain ivory for exhibition from other museums. Some national, some even international. To restrict both trade and travel of these objects would really severally hurt the growth of our collections and also the display of our collections."
 "It’s important that people understand that we have a moral debt to repay here," Daniels said. "One way we can do it is to pass strict ivory ban legislation that shuts down all the loopholes that make the trafficking of new ivory less possible."
Daniels said she understands the exemption that allows for the sale of certain instruments and other antique objects with less than 200 grams of ivory, but she's concerned the federal law is still too broadly written and will be hard to enforce.
"As I say on my shop window, 'Ivory belongs on elephants, not in our shop.' And we neither buy nor sell ivory," Daniels said. "We believe that poaching is driving the elephants to extinction and antique ivory has served as a cover for the introduction of poached new ivory because it is so easy to make new ivory look like old."
In 2014, a Philadelphia store owner was sentenced to 30 months in prison for illegally importing over a ton of new African ivory into the U.S., which he later stained and fabricated documentation on to make it appear older than it was.
Public comment on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposed rule will be open for 60 days.
A study by Boston College's Center for Work & Family found 86% of men surveyed said they wouldn't use paternity leave or parental leave unless they were paid at least 70% of their normal salaries.
But research out of Israel shows the more leave men take to care for children when they're young, the more the fathers undergo changes in the brain that make them better suited to parenting. And a study by two Columbia University Social Work professors found that fathers who take two or more weeks off after their child is born are more involved in their child's care nine months later. Simply put, paid paternity leave can help foster better father-child relationships.
And the more leave fathers take, the more mothers' incomes increase. In Sweden, where fathers must take at least two months off before the child is 8 years old to receive the government benefits, researchers saw mothers' incomes increase almost 7% for every month of paternity leave their husbands took.
As President Barack Obama said during one of his weekly addresses last summer, "Family leave, childcare, flexibility — these aren't frills. They're basic needs. They shouldn't be bonuses – they should be the bottom line."