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Antiques Roadshow Update: They've Stopped Appraising Ivory!

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Last month, I wrote of an effort by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and others to urge the PBS series Antiques Roadshow to stop appraising ivory, given the devastating toll that poaching has on elephant populations. The WCS announced today that the show has agreed to their requests.


A statement put out by the WCS reads, in part:

The Wildlife Conservation Society is pleased to learn that Antiques Roadshow on PBS will no longer feature carved ivory tusks on air. In addition, the show has removed past appraisals from the series archive.

"On behalf of WCS and all of the 96 Elephants campaign partners, we commend Antiques Roadshow on their decision to cease appraisals of ivory tusks," said John Calvelli, Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Director of WCS's 96 Elephants Campaign. "It is vital to the survival of this iconic species that we limit the demand of ivory products. These policies are an important step in assuring these items are not glorified on-air and the assumed monetary value is not a factor. We look forward to working with Antiques Roadshow in the coming months."

The decision comes as Africa's elephant's struggle for survival due to ivory poaching. Scientists estimate elephant numbers have plummeted by 76 percent due largely to the demand of elephant ivory with an estimated 35,000 slaughtered by poachers in 2012 alone.

Antiques Roadshow, produced by WGBH Boston, has worked closely with USFWS to stay up-to-date on this issue, and now has an open dialogue with the Wildlife Conservation Society.

According to the show's producers, when featuring antique objects made from ESA materials, such as a historical portrait on ivory or a musical instrument with an ivory inlay, Antiques Roadshow strives to offer context and use the appraisal as an opportunity to educate its viewers not only about the historical and cultural significance of the object, but also about the larger issues at hand.

According to the policy published on their website, Antiques Roadshow only features items in accord with U.S. law, including the Endangered Species Act (ESA), U.S. regulations for implementing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and other applicable laws. Antiques Roadshow has not taped any ivory tusk appraisals for the last three seasons (the last one was filmed in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the series 16th season).


This seems like the best outcome imaginable: the show will no longer featured carved ivory tusks in new materials, they'll remove that sort of content from their website, and any future appraisals that include ivory (in its non-tusk form) will include a discussion about the larger issues involved in the ivory trade.

Header image: Ivory seized from poachers via ENOUGH Project/Flickr.