I'll say it: I love Antiques Roadshow. The look on the faces of folks who find out on national television that their priceless antiques are really worthless hunks of junk is, well, priceless. There's just one problem: by appraising ivory the PBS show communicates the idea that elephants are worth more dead than alive.
To raise awareness about the cost of the ivory trade to elephants and other wildlife, the Wildlife Conservation Society created the parody video above to illustrate the true cost of ivory. Thanks to the public's response to their outreach, which is part of WCS's 96 Elephants Campaign, Antiques Roadshow has removed two items made of ivory from their website.
From an official statement issued by the WCS:
On April 30th, WCS's 96 Elephants campaign launched an initiative asking the public to contact the PBS program Antiques Roadshow asking them to stop on-air appraisals of ivory. We believe that the appraisals send the wrong message to the public and are helping perpetuate a black market that is wiping out elephants at an unprecedented rate.
The initiative included a fictional appraisal on YouTube that brought to light the many negative issues surrounding the ivory trade including the wholesale slaughter of elephants, murdering of park guards, organized crime, terrorism, and human rights abuses. We have since learned that Antiques Roadshow has removed two prominent ivory appraisals from their website – one showing an appraisal of a carved elephant tusk from Belgian Congo; the other showing a carved tusk from Burma.
The public response to the campaign has been very strong with more than 34,000 actions taken so far, including more than 29,000 emails sent to WGBH, the show's producer; along with more than 2,400 Tweets and re-Tweets on the issue ... and 2,100 shares on Facebook.
Both species of African elephants are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN, but the smaller African forest elephants are in an especially precarious position. If the demand for ivory doesn't diminish and its consequent poaching isn't eradicated, extinction in the wild may well be around the corner.
By including appraisals of items made from ivory in their show and website, Antiques Roadshow communicates to the public that elephants are worth more dead than alive. That's the wrong message.
You can sign the petition that WCS has created to send to Antiques Roadshow, here.