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Mountain Zebra Skin. Credit: USFWS

Publications & ID Notes

INTRODUCTION | WHAT IS IVORY? | THE IVORIES | IDENTIFYING IVORY | GLOSSARY


INTRODUCTION TO THE IVORY IDENTIFICATION GUIDE

This is a web version of the Identification Guide for Ivory and Ivory Substitutes by Edgard O. Espinoza and Mary-Jacque Mann, published in cooperation with the CITES Secretariat, and was developed to give information about a nondestructive and visual means of tentatively distinguishing clearly legal ivory from suspected illegal ivory at ports of entry.

Various ivories. Credit: USFWS.
Various ivories. Credit: USFWS.

The methods, data and background information on ivory identification compiled in these pages are the result of forensic research conducted by the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, located in Ashland, Oregon, USA.

As such it was necessary that the described methods be simple to perform and not require the use of sophisticated scientific instruments. You will notice that we did not include detailed classical morphology data on whole tusks or teeth; mostly because the whole structures are fairly easy to identify but also because it is impossible to anticipate which portion of a tusk or tooth will be used for any specific carving. Instead, we chose to focus our attention on the 'species determining' characteristics of the ivory material itself.

One point which must be emphasized: while the methods described in this handbook are reliable for the purposes described (i.e. tentative visual identification, and "probable cause" to seize as evidence), an examination of the carved ivory object by a trained scientist is still necessary to obtain a positive identification of the species source.

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