Bizarre Endangered Species Act Case: Narwhal Tusks in Santa Fe
What’s the punishment for keeping seven narwhal tusks in your home?
By Andrew Stiny, Guest Writer, 3-22-11
||A narwhal tusk on display in a museum. Photo by Flickr user torrez.
They are the unicorns of the deep Arctic ocean, with an unusual spiral, ivory tusk whose use is unknown.
And a Santa Fe woman has pleaded guilty to violating the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) by illegally possessing seven tusks of the unique creature, the narwhal.
Under a plea agreement announced Monday, Margaret-Ann Dion, 58, pleaded guilty in federal court in Albuquerque to a single misdemeanor count of violating the ESA, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales.
Dion, who has had a residence in Santa Fe from 1981 through 2010, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to one year of unsupervised probation and under the agreement she will forfeit the tusks. Dion is a citizen of Canada and Australia.
The indictment states “that, on June 22, 2010, Dion knowingly possessed seven tusks of narwhal whales that had been illegally traded and imported in violation of the ESA and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES),” states the news release.
“The ESA, CITES and other regulations require that all wildlife, including marine animals, be declared to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the port of first arrival in the United States and that all importers file a declaration of importation at or before the time of importation.”
Dion purchased the whale tusks in Canada in the late 1980s and then illegally possessed them at her Santa Fe home, according to the U.S. Attorney.
Narwals are legally hunted by Inuit natives in Canada. Their hollow tusks are actually a single tooth that can grow up to 10 feet long.
The male whale can weigh up to 1.8 tons with the females being smaller and their live expectancy can be up to 50 years, according to the Enchanted Learning website.
“Long ago, narwhal sightings reinforced (or started) the unicorn legends,” said the website. Although the tusk function is unknown it is thought it could be “a jousting weapon in courtship” or used to obtain food, according to the web site.
The Dion case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and prosecuted by assistant United States Attorney George C. Kraehe.