PUBLISHED: 18:38 18 June 2008 | UPDATED: 09:53 23 August 2010
WILDLIFE groups have warned that trade in ivory is still thriving in the UK after a man was convicted of dealing in the tusks and teeth of some of the worlds most endangered species. Michael Elliot, 57, of Singlewell Road, Gravesend was spared jail when
WILDLIFE groups have warned that trade in ivory is still thriving in the UK after a man was convicted of dealing in the tusks and teeth of some of the worlds most endangered species.
Michael Elliot, 57, of Singlewell Road, Gravesend was spared jail when he was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court last Friday, and was handed a two year jail term suspended for two years.
A raid on his large detached home resulted in one the largest seizures of illegal ivory ever made by the Metropolitan Police's Wildlife Crime Unit, which found items that are protected from uncontrolled trade by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species.
A total of 24 tusks worth £60,000 were seized, as well as £34,000 in cash. One bedroom was devoted to his huge collection of ivory including carved miniature elephants, Japanese figurines and walking stick handles.
There was also an ornamental ivory sword and intricate scabbard imported from the Far East.
His garage was crammed with items for sale on the black market, and a list was found detailing prices of sperm whale teeth. Robbie Marsland, Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare UK said: "Many collectors may not be aware that the demand for ivory ornaments, jewellery and trinkets carved from ivory fuels the slaughter of thousands of endangered wild animals. This huge seizure shows that trade in ivory is still thriving in the UK, and the conviction acts as a reminder that London still has a huge black market in items made from protected species of animals."
Elliot, who also worked as an antique dealer and told police his main income came from fixing clocks, first came to the attention of the Met Police's Art and Antique unit in August 2005 after a raid on one of his customers by Customs and Borders police.
Martin Schneider, 60, who has since been convicted, bought sperm whale teeth and carved hippo teeth from Elliot.
Judge Michael Gledhill told Elliot the photograph of him in a pile of elephant tusks was 'disgusting' and that he should be 'thoroughly ashamed'.
He said: "I am perfectly satisfied that you were involved in a business, the numbers of items run into the hundreds and were kept in boxes similar to those that jewellers would use."
Heather Sohl, of the Worldwide Wildlife Fund said: "This case demonstrates the need for UK police forces to have officers dedicated to combating wildlife crime. By working in partnership with them we will bring an end to this illegal trade before it brings an end to some of the world's most important species."
Elliot pleaded guilty to three counts of selling specimens of a controlled species, one count of purchasing specimens of controlled species and three counts of keeping for sale specimens of controlled species between December 31, 2004 and August 14, 2005.
Elliot was also ordered to pay £1,480 in prosecution costs.
*Elephant tusks have long been carved to make ornaments and jewellery, but it is less well know that there is also a trade in whale bone, sometimes called 'scrimshaw', hippo teeth and walrus tusks, which are all carved into decorative items.
*Demand for ivory often leads to elephants and hippos being poached in the wild.
*Despite an international ban on trade in elephant ivory since 1990, corruption and a lack of law enforcement in domestic ivory markets in Africa and Asia have fuelled the illegal international ivory trade.
*Over 30,000 items have been seized by the Wildlife Crime Unit since 1997.