Good News for Elephants: ‘Antiques Roadshow’ Will Finally Stop Featuring Ivory Tusks

The long-running program has also pulled past appraisals from its archive.

(Photo: Joson/Getty Images)

Jun 5, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

After getting the Saturday Night Live treatment in a parody video by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Antiques Roadshow has finally declared a ban on ivory tusks on the program.

For years, the PBS show has featured objects made from the tusks of Africa’s poached elephants. While selling ivory is illegal in the United States, there are exemptions for pieces that were imported before 1989 or judged to be more than a century old. In April the WCS’s “96 Elephants” campaign, which raises awareness about the number of pachyderms gunned down in Africa each day, released a satirical video titled “Vintage Horrorshow.” Its point? Any ivory sale—approved or not—promotes existing loopholes.

Though Antiques Roadshow hasn’t filmed any tusk appraisals for its last three seasons, this week the show finally promised to stop featuring ivory. The program has also removed past appraisals from its archive.

“It is vital to the survival of this iconic species that we limit the demand for ivory products,” said John Calvelli, the “96 Elephants” campaign director, in a press release yesterday.

Poachers kill an estimated 33,000 elephants every year for their tusks. Though poverty primarily drives poaching in Africa, an increasing number of criminal networks use the illegal trade to fund terrorism and human trafficking. Consumers in countries such as China, Japan, and the U.S. continue to fuel a thriving black market for ivory.

PBS said in an emailed statement, “Antiques Roadshow has worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stay up to date on this issue and now has an open dialogue with the Wildlife Conservation Society.”

The show promotes only items approved by U.S. law, including the Endangered Species Act, according to PBS’ editorial policy. Antiques Roadshow could still feature “ESA materials” such as musical instruments with an ivory inlay. In this case, the show said, it will strive “to offer context and use the appraisal as an opportunity to educate our viewers not only about the historical and cultural significance of the object, but also about the larger issues at hand.”