Lawmakers in California passed a bill yesterday outlawing the sale of nearly all ivory and rhinoceros horn products in the state. This move is an attempt to reduce elephant and rhino poaching, which is threatening both species with extinction. The ban gives current owners of ivory products until next summer to sell the items, before facing hefty fines and jail time.
Prior to this week, it was already illegal to sell ivory in California, but the existing law had an unfortunate loophole that permitted the sale of old ivory imported more than four decades ago. The new bill, AB-96, closes that gap, which lawmakers recognized as a necessary move considering these illicit products are still found for sale in the backrooms of Chinatown shops, despite recent federal crackdowns on rhino horn products.
“We are seeing a poaching crisis that has the potential to impact an entire species of elephants and rhinos,” Toni Atkins, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “We are one step closer to taking decisive action to prevent the harmful and illegal act of poaching to protect conservation efforts and help protect these delicate creatures.”
The new ban comes with some lead time, allowing current owners of ivory products to sell until July 1, 2016. From then on, any banned sales will earn a misdemeanor charge and fines up to $50,000, along with a year of jail time.
Some critics are skeptical about the efficacy of the new law, claiming that it will be nearly impossible to curb ivory trade as long as old ivory is still legal in others states. The new California law does have a few exceptions, including stipulations to allow for the sale of musical instruments made before 1975 that are less than 20 percent ivory, antiques over 100 years old that are less than 5 percent ivory, and ivory sold for educational purposes if the item was obtained before 1991. By permitting the continued trade of decades-old items on a limited basis, lawmakers still hope the ban will be strong enough to discourage at least some poaching in the future.
The bill went back to the assembly yesterday for minor amendments, where it has already passed, and then will head on to the governor’s office. It’s expected that Governor Jerry Brown will sign the bill into law without hesitation.
Via SF Gate