A near-total ban on ivory coming soon to the United States

A new ban on ivory will include nearly all sales of items containing African elephant tusks within the US, hopefully hurting the wildlife trade that is decimating elephants.

In response to an alarming rise in the poaching of the African elephant population, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has announced a near-total ban on the sale of ivory products in the country, even across state lines. It will take effect on the 6th of July. While ivory import bans and restrictions have been in place since 1978, when elephants were classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the lack of strict enforcement has allowed the notorious poaching business to thrive, leading to the death of over 20,000 elephants per year.

The path leading to solutions

A serious effort to contrast poachers started in 2013, when President Obama signed an executive order, followed by the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking outlined in 2014, aimed at stopping wildlife trafficking and protecting endangered species. In September 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Obama agreed to ban the ivory trade in both China and the US, the two biggest markets for illegal ivory.



The final ban on ivory

With the latest regulation soon coming into effect, the Obama administration’s plan is finally coming to completion. All import and export of African elephant ivory will be banned. There will be very few exceptions, such as antiques that are over 100 years old, musical instruments, firearms and furniture containing less than 200 grammes of elephant tusks. As US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell stated: “Today’s bold action underscores the United States’ leadership and commitment to ending the scourge of elephant poaching and the tragic impact it’s having on wild populations.”

Illegal ivory tusks are burned in Kenya
A ranger guards illegal piles of burning elephant tusks in Nairobi National Park, Kenya © Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

Support and opposition

The new rule doesn’t come without controversy. While the National Rifle Association is against poaching and illegal trade, it believes the new regulation won’t protect elephants in Africa and Asia, but may turn ivory sellers into criminals and decrease the value of thousands of items. According to Dan Ashe, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the common sense exceptions allowed by the rule protect those trading items with small amounts of ivory. “We still have much to do to save this species, but today is a good day for the African elephant,” he said.

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