John Frederick Walker

JFW on mammoth ivory

Posted in conservation news, elephant and ivory news, ivory news by JFW on March 28, 2017

In a fascinating BBC News piece on How an obscure seed is helping to save the elephant, business reporter Kait Bolongaro explains how tagua seed from ivory-nut palms (known as “vegetable ivory”) and tusks from long-extinct mammoths are finding ready markets as substitutes for elephant ivory.  I’m quoted on ethically-sourced mammoth ivory  from the Siberian tundra, which varies from hard, almost petrified examples, to remarkably well-preserved tusks.

“John Frederick Walker, an expert on ivory, says: ‘Master carvers tend to prefer elephant ivory because fresh elephant ivory is easier to carve. But in fact, you can make wonderful things from mammoth ivory.’ ”

Both tagua and mammoth ivory are examples of natural, organic materials   that share much of the tactile attraction of elephant ivory, but unlike tusks from poached elephants, can be sourced guilt-free: the first is a palm-tree seed, the second from a long-expired ancestor of today’s elephant.


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