Are you an Inuit? No? Then you shouldn’t be selling narwhal tusks. And oh yes, despite what you might think when you picture a giant sea creature with a horn like a unicorn, the narwhal is very real (even if spellcheck says otherwise) and you will be very busted for smuggling their ivory tusks.
One of three people charged in cross-border smuggling of narwhal tusks from Canada into the U.S. is pleading guilty tomorrow to charges stemming from a 2009 incident, reports the Bangor Daily News.
Here’s how you spot a narwhal, in case you’re worried you might accidentally be smuggling tusks: The males’ tusks spiral counter-clockwise from the head and can be as long as eight feet. Those pointy bits might be used to impress females or engage in narwhal-on-narwhal battle action to win the ladies.
The whales are native to Arctic waters and are protected by the U.S. by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and in Canada under the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The Inuit people may legally harvest and sell the tusks in Canada, but that’s it.
The men are accused of buying the tusks from retail outlets in Canada and then selling them on the Internet. One man allegedly hid them in his truck and a trailer and crossed the border into Maine with the illegal booty to complete the sales.
To make matters worse, or at least more notable, one of the men indicted in the case is an ex-Mountie. He was arrested by the Environment Canada in 2011 after a two-year investigation called Operation Longtooth, which is pretty good name, all things considered.
Things we learned: Yes, narwhals are very real and no, you cannot sell them in or smuggle them into the U.S. The more you know!