During his two-day visit to Kenya, President Obama announced major new restrictions that will establish a stronger ban on the United States’ domestic commercial ivory trade. The new regulations will prohibit the sale of African elephant ivory across state lines in the U.S. and will add further restrictions on where ivory can be exported internationally.
“I can announce that we’re proposing a new rule that bans the sale of virtually all ivory across our state lines, which will eliminate the market for illegal ivory in the United States,” Obama stated at a press conference in Kenya.
After China, the United States is the second largest market for ivory. Research shows that 100,000 elephants were killed in just three years between 2010 and 2012. Without immediate action, African elephant populations will continue to drop at alarming rates.
The proposed new regulations do not cover the trade of ivory within states, meaning that state legislation like California’s proposed AB96 remains important in eliminating the ivory trade. New York and New Jersey have already enacted bans on ivory sales. California’s bill banning the trade of ivory and rhino horn is now making its way through the state legislature, and fifteen other states are expected to pass legislation in the coming few years.
In addition to strengthening the United States’ ban on ivory, President Obama also announced the formation of the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance in a written statement. The Alliance is a “new voluntary partnership between major companies and non-profit organizations to reduce U.S. demand for ivory, rhino horn and other illegal wildlife products.” WCN supports this alliance and will join as one of its members.
These regulations are a huge win for wildlife conservation and will also provide economic growth in Africa in the form of wildlife-based tourism. Tourism accounts for 12% of Kenya’s economy, and Botswana has banned all sport hunting of elephants in favor of sustainable wildlife tourism. An elephant is worth far more alive than dead. When we protect endangered species, we also enhance the livelihoods of those living together with wildlife.
President Obama’s announcement is a step forward for elephants, but there is still much work to be done around the world to end the current poaching crisis.
Wildlife Conservation Network is committed to saving the world’s remaining elephants. WCN has partnered with Save the Elephants to form the Elephant Crisis Fund, a coalition that tackles poaching, ivory trafficking, and ivory demand. The ECF quickly identifies and funds the most innovative and effective projects in order to conserve elephants. Through the ECF, more than $4 million has been sent to 37 partners around that world that are tackling poaching, ivory trafficking, and demand for ivory.
Photo courtesy of Frank af Petersens. Article by Juliet Norvig.