Narwhal tusk donated to Calgary Goodwill gifted to Arctic Institute of North America

A narwhal tusk was donated to a Goodwill in Calgary in September 2020. Courtesy: Goodwill Industries of Alberta

A rare relic belonging to the unicorn of the sea is making its way from a Calgary Goodwill donation bin to an educational home.

A 24-inch ivory narwhal tusk from Canada’s Arctic, with a hunting tag dating back to 1978, was donated to the Beacon Heights Goodwill in September.

‘Historical and cultural integrity’

After extensive research on regulations and potential locations, Goodwill chose the University of Calgary’s Arctic Institute of North America for the tusk’s permanent home so it could be used for educational purposes.

“For centuries in Inuit communities, narwhals have provided food for those in the Arctic and have supplied materials for day-to-day living,” Goodwill Industries of Alberta said in a press release on Monday.

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“The narwhal hunt is significant as it provides both food and income, particularly in isolated Arctic communities, where employment opportunities are very scarce for families involved in hunting.

“Items like these are a fundamental part of Indigenous culture and history and must be preserved.”

Goodwill said the institute is “committed to preserving the tusk’s historical and cultural integrity.”

‘Intelligent whale species’

Narwhals are a “Canadian treasure,” explained Dr. Sandie Black, the head of veterinary services at the Calgary Zoo.

“They are a highly intelligent small whale species [that] only exists in the Arctic, and considerably, more than half the existing number of animals — estimated at [about 123,000] adult animals by the [International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species] — are found in Canadian waters,” Black said.

“In Canada, our collective actions in managing Arctic development sustainably and in safeguarding the marine Arctic will determine their future.”

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The tusk handoff will happen in a closed celebration due to COVID-19 safety measures.

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