US federal agency bans domestic sale of elephant ivory

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finalized a new rule on Thursday that almost completely bans the domestic sale of African elephant ivory through a revised section of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The change in official policy complies with the Executive Order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking, issued by President Obama in 2013, which sought to “reduce illicit trade and reduce consumer demand for trade in protected species.”

According to FWS and a 2008 study performed by a UK-based conservation group, the U.S. is the second largest market in the world for ivory, behind China.

Specifically, the rule change “substantially limits imports, exports, and sales of African elephant ivory across state lines,” but makes exceptions for some “pre-existing manufactured items . . . that contain less than 200 grams of ivory”.

“Illegal ivory hides behind legal ivory,” CEO and President of the Wildlife Conservation Society said in statement to RT. “Our scientists have found conclusive evidence that the only way to save elephants is to ban ivory sales.”

Ivory is predominantly used in such popular items as musical instruments, firearms, furniture and knife handles. As a result, revisions to ESA were made in consultation with legal ivory traders so as not to hurt sectors that are vital to the U.S. economy.

While African ivory imports to the U.S. have been banned since 1989, in the three-year period between 2010 and 2012, an average of one elephant per 15 minutes was poached in Africa — totaling approximately 100,000.

Despite the horrific statistics evidencing elephant abuse, the National Rifle Association published a statement opposing the ivory ban.

“[T]hese proposals would do nothing to protect elephants in Africa and Asia, but would instead make sellers of legal ivory potential criminals overnight, as well as destroy the value of property held by countless gun owners, art collectors, musicians and others,” the statement read. “While the goal of restricting illegal commerce in endangered species is laudable . . . the effects of a ban on legally owned ivory are disastrous for American gun owners and sportsmen.”

The new finalized FWS rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Registrar on June 6.


[RT News] [NPR]