In 1989 the world voted to create a global ban on the ivory trade. Since then, tens of millions of dollars in illegal ivory has been smuggled and hundreds of thousands of elephants have been slaughtered. No single ivory trafficking kingpin has ever been identified and sent to prison.
The most common use of high-end ivory is for the carving of religious icons. This is a centuries-old trade that continues unabated today. Buddhist monks, Catholic priests, Taoist leaders and Hindu believers bless ivory carvings. These blessings add exponentially to the value of the carvings. High-end pieces can sell for up to $500,000.