Following today's release of the Obama Administration's National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (The Service) will implement a U.S. ban on commercial trade of elephant ivory. This unprecedented action is in response to the escalating and highly organized wildlife trafficking crime that threatens the survival of the African elephant, rhinoceros and a host of other species around the world.
"We are seeing record high demand for wildlife products that is having a devastating impact, with species like elephants and rhinos facing the risk of significant decline or even extinction." said Sally Jewell. "A commercial ban is a critical element in the President's strategy to stop illegal wildlife trafficking and to shut down criminal markets that encourage poaching."
It is estimated that poachers, working with criminal syndicates, systematically killed as many as 35,000 elephants in 2012. Globally, illegal ivory trade activity has more than doubled since 2007. With revenues totaling many billions of dollars, wildlife trafficking is estimated to be fourth largest transnational crime in the world.
"The U.S. market is contributing to the crisis now threatening the African elephant," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "The largely unregulated domestic trade in elephant ivory has served as a loophole that gives cover for illegal trade. Through a series of administrative actions, we can establish a commercial ivory ban and provide the urgently needed protections for elephants and rhinos that will help counteract the unparalleled threats facing two of the world's most treasured species."
The ban will impose new restrictions on the import, export, and commercial sale of elephant ivory within the United States, with some limited exceptions. The limited exceptions include a narrow class of antiques that are exempt from regulation under the Endangered Species Act; and items imported for commercial purposes before international commercial trade in these species was prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Anyone proposing to sell elephant ivory or rhino horn would be responsible to document that they are exempt. The Service expects this to be a small fraction of the current domestic trade. Anyone who currently owns legally obtained ivory may keep it.