Objects and Stories
What is it?
An ornamental carved tusk from a young female African elephant.
What is it made of?
Elephant tusks are made of ivory. Ivory is formed from dentine and constitutes the bulk of the teeth and tusks of animals such as the elephant, hippopotamus, walrus, mammoth and narwhal.
When was it made?
Made around 1970-90.
Where is it from?
The tusk is from an African elephant.
How did it get to Leeds?
This was seized by HM Revenue and Customs. Ivory is worth a lot of money and so is in big demand. This has led to people killing elephants for their ivory – endangering elephant populations across Africa and Asia.
In order to protect elephants, the trade in ivory was banned in 1989 – this meant that any ivory brought into this country would be seized by Customs and the importer arrested and fined or imprisoned. Customs usually destroy their seizures but sometimes offer them to museums and other institutions for educational purposes. Leeds Museums and Galleries does not own the tusk – it is still Crown property.
What is it worth?
The price of this is unknown but we do know that less than 1% of the final sale value goes to the poacher.
Rhinos have also been hunted for their horns. A rhino’s horn is made from keratin (like your hair and fingernails) and so conservationists have been anaesthetising rhinos, sawing off their horns and releasing them – this makes them totally uninteresting to poachers. Sadly, you can’t do this with elephants as their tusks are teeth and have nerves running through them.
Anaesthetising - giving drugs to make the animal unconscious so they feel no pain or discomfort
Map link: North Africa»