News & Politics

Elephant Tusks Donated to DC in 1954 Were Stolen Last August

The tusks were a gift from Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.

Photograph courtesy MPD.

The Metropolitan Police Department says that a set of elephant tusks given to the District in 1954 by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie went missing from the John A. Wilson Building last August. And, no, none of that sentence was made up.

Officials say the prized ivory went missing between August 12 and August 27, when someone in the building noticed the tusks were gone. The DC Council was out of session during that span. Police did not say why it took more than four months to alert the public that Selassie’s gift had been stolen.

A police spokesman tells Washingtonian he does not know if the tusks have a current appraised value, but elephant ivory is extremely valuable. A pair of female African elephant tusks sold at auction in August 2012 for $30,000.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.