Narwhal Tusks


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At Inuit Gifts Inc. we acquire several Narwhal Tusks very year that we like to offer to our clients. I recently had a client who purchased one this week and his wife had a simple yet frequent enough question before committing to the purchase. The question was:

"Are Narhwal only hunted for the tusks; Are they at all endangered?"

The simple answer to these two questions is NO - and let me explain.

The first NO refers to weather they are caught for the sole purpose of their tusks. Just to shed some light on Inuit culture and the villages they live in, it is a very communal and aggregate lifestyle in the North. There ways of life, traditions and willingness to share with one another is something that has been passed down by their ancestors. This communal form of living where everyone is equal, shares and takes care of one another is a way of living that has allowed them to survive the extreme elements of the North for hundreds of generations.

When a caribou, polar bear, muskox or narwhal are caught, the Inuit will bring it back to the community centre in their village. Here the women of the village will gather around with their ULU knives, clean the whale, cut out the meat and the entire community will join around and have a feast (raw meat I might add... lol... at least today's generation dip it in soya sauce... lol).

The tusks will then be taken by the hunter to the local marine wildlife officer where he will get it tagged and registered. From there, once it is cleaned, he will bring it to the co-op, which is then distributed to a gallery like mine.

Summary - these narwhals are hunted for their meat (as was by their ancestors), and the tusks are taken out as an afterthought. The same is true for walrus tusks, caribou antlers and polar bear hides. They are all hunted primarily for their food and is the main source of nourishment the Inuit survive from. The resourceful people that they are, they like to use every bit of the animal for other various things like clothing, pottery, and artistry. 

The second part of the question - are they endangered? The answer again is NO, but only because they are strictly monitored and regulated by the Canadian government. These narwhals are strictly enforced and accounted for by the department on Marine Mammal Wildlife Canada

On each tusk, there is a tag that is steel wired through (impossible to remove). This tag was issued by the local marine wildlife officer which is present in each town. Once the tusks are taken out, the hunter brings it to the local office, the tag is issued and wired into the tusk. Every year, they count the population and enforce how many are allowed to be caught by the Inuit. Last year it was 140. That means, only 140 narwhals were allowed to be hunted. Each community is given a strict quota. 

If it were left up to the Chinese, yes these Narwhals would be extinct by now (Like the Panda). Luckily for the Narwhal, their migrating patterns are in Canadian arctic waters, resulting in the whales being well monitored, and under very strict regulations.

Should there be NO tag attached to a tusk, it has ZERO value as there is no way for it to be sold on the open market. If a gallery is caught selling, transporting or buying a tusk without a tag, there are major major penalties ($100,000 +).
In short, you can buy one with confidence knowing that everything is well regulated, the animals were treated in a  human way, and hunted in a very traditional manner the same way the Inuit have been doing it for 1000's of years. It is their way of life and the only way they can survive the North. Click here to purchase a Narwhal tusk from our website.