Portugal’s long association with African ivory

Esmond Martin, Chryssee Martin


Retail outlets in Lisbon, Portugal, have more ivory items than other much larger cities in southern Europe. There were 626 ivory objects counted in 2008, with 150 of these originating in Africa. The most numerous items counted were antique figurines from Europe and Asia, followed by busts and figurines carved in the 1970s from Angola, and antique crucifixes from India, Europe and Ceylon (renamed Sri Lanka in 1972). There were only 14 new ivory items counted in the survey for sale in three retail outlets: 12 from China and only 2 from Africa. Ivory is easily smuggled out of Africa into Portugal. The Portuguese authorities intercept several hundred pieces of ivory (both raw and worked) each year, almost all from Africa, especially Angola, Mozambique and Senegal. Much ivory, new and old, however, is successfully smuggled into Portugal, often
hand-carried through the airports. But very little of this ivory is found in retail outlets; instead it is kept as personal possessions at home. Another source of ivory is the Internet, which also enables new ivory items to be smuggled into Portugal, but again nearly all of it is for personal use and not for sale. There is a large quantity of ivory in Portugal, with at least 20 tonnes of registered tusks alone, due to the long-standing colonial connections with Africa. Nearly all the ivory items seen for sale were made before the CITES ban. Some, however, were being sold illegally because Portuguese law requires that ivory pieces be registered. Since 2004, privately owned ivory is required to be registered as well, but most has not been recorded.


Portugal; Angola; Mozambique; ivory trade; Indo-Portuguese ivory

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