There’s not much the Oregon legislature can do to save the mammoths, which died out 10,000 years ago, but it is apparently going to try. You’d think that not even members of the Senate Judiciary Committee can protect a species that’s already extinct. But then why ban the sale of items made from mammoth teeth or tusks?
Senate Bill 913 would do just that, and more, and the committee plans to hold a hearing on the bill on Tuesday (March 24). The bill would create the offense of “trafficking in animal parts.” Specifically, it would outlaw the knowing “purchase, sale, offering for sale, possession with intent to sell or importation for purchase or sale in this state of ivory, rhinoceros horn, ivory products or rhinoceros horn products.”
According to the bill, ivory is anything made from the tusk or tooth of an elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, narwhal, walrus or whale. The only institutions that could acquire or sell such items under the bill are museums and universities.
So if you had an item containing ivory passed down from your grandparents, say, and tried to sell it to an antiquities dealer, you would be committing a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days imprisonment and a fine of $1,250 or twice the market value of the item, whichever was higher. If you got caught committing this crime again, the minimum fine would go to $6,250.
The effect is obvious: All such property owned by Oregon residents would immediately become worthless except for its sentimental value. Why would the judiciary committee, of all people, introduce a bill robbing people of the monetary value of their property? In order to save elephants and those other animals from being slaughtered for their teeth and tusks, that’s why.
But all the ivory in Oregon now is from animals that are already dead. Barring its sale saves not a single specimen, even if Oregon were the only place in the world where ivory is for sale.
At the March 24 hearing, the committee will consider an amendment that allows ivory to be sold if it’s no more than 20 percent of guns and knives that are at least 100 years old. The same exceptions also would be made for musical instruments whose owners can prove the items were made before Jan. 18, 1990. As for the 20 percent rule, you’d presumably have to break the things apart and weigh the wreckage separately to establish this.
And by the way, under the amendment, mammoth ivory could be sold if the item was made before the effective date of the act, but not if it’s made after that. These legislators must hope that the next time mammoth bones are unearthed, turning them into trinkets would ruin the chances of reviving the animal itself via some miracle involving that poor mammoth’s DNA, as in “Jurassic Park.” (hh)