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This week the White House announced a new “National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking” that includes a near complete ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory. Under the new legislation it will be illegal to import any elephant ivory into the U.S., including antique ivory, while the export and domestic resale of elephant ivory will be prohibited in most circumstances.
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While strictly speaking it hasn’t previously been legal to trade in elephant ivory, the laws have been complicated and often erratically enforced. One of the key details in the White House’s announcement is the ban on all elephant ivory imports. Previously, laws that allowed for the import of antique ivory left room for traffickers to bring ivory from recently killed elephants into the country under false pretenses.
Exports and domestic trade of elephant ivory will also be banned, except in the case of “bona fide antiques.” An additional change in the law will put the onus on the exporter or seller to prove that the ivory meets this criteria as well as others under the endangered species act. Previously, it was the responsibility of the government to prove that ivory had been illegally imported. The new regulation should bring to an end another absurdity in wildlife protection laws.
An additional rule has been introduced that will “limit the number of African elephant sport-hunted trophies that an individual can import to two per hunter per year.” Though it will still be legal to import these “sport” trophies.
The government hopes that the strategy will “ensure that the United States is not contributing to poaching of elephants and illegal trade in elephant ivory,” but it still falls short of a much-needed complete ban. According to the NRDC: “The elephant poaching crises reached its peak last year with about 30,000 of these amazing species slaughtered for their tusks. Seizure data collected for 2014 so far shows that this year could be even worse.”
The National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking is the product of a task force created by President Obama’s Executive Order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking, which was established last year. In addition to tightening rules over the commercial trade on elephant ivory, the government aims to “continue to lead global efforts to protect the world’s iconic animals and preserve our planet’s natural beauty for future generations,” adding in a statement that: “In the coming months, we will take further steps to implement the National Strategy, and will work with the Congress to strengthen existing laws and adopt new ones to enhance our ability to address this global challenge.”