Ivory Wars – Right Here in the United States

By on March 13, 2015 with 12 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Last week, we received the extraordinary news that Ringling Bros. plans to retire the elephants from its traveling circus and place them at its elephant care facility in Florida.  Given the tremendously favorable response to this action from the public and the press, you might think that legislation to stem the sale of ivory and protect elephants in the wild would be a piece of cake. After all, the poaching crisis has claimed the lives of 100,000 African elephants from 2010 to 2012. But some lawmakers are being bamboozled by the rhetoric of a new front group trying to stop anti-poaching legislation at the state and federal level.

Last year, New Jersey and New York passed legislation severely restricting trade in ivory or rhino horns, helping to dry up the demand for poached wildlife products. This year, similar bills have been introduced in 12 other states, including major ivory-selling markets in California and Hawaii. At the federal level, the Department of the Interior, the State Department, and other agencies have made combatting wildlife trafficking a top priority for the Obama administration. In the next couple of months, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is expected to release a rule that would add much needed restrictions to the commercial ivory trade.

As a way to publicize the plight of elephants, the FWS in 2013 destroyed six tons of confiscated ivory before a crowd of journalists. China, the world’s largest market for ivory, followed suit, crushing six tons of ivory it had confiscated. This month, Kenya set fire to 15 metric tons of ivory to discourage poaching – knowing full well that the destruction of elephants will destroy its enormous wildlife tourism industry.

But now the Elephant Protection Association, a front group made up of ivory traders and backers associated with the National Rifle Association, has emerged to fight humane efforts at the state and federal levels. Despite hollow claims that it detests poaching, the group is fighting to maintain the current allowances for the trade in ivory, so its financial backers can continue to sell ivory trinkets, jewelry, firearms, and other vanity items. The group hardly seems troubled that elephant scientists and experts, conservationists, and enforcement officials have demonstrated that the legal trade for ivory is providing cover for the illegal trade. The FWS has said, “By significantly restricting ivory trade in the United States, it will be more difficult to launder illegal ivory into the market and thus reduce the threat of poaching to imperiled elephant populations.”

It’s remarkable that, as we see the mass slaughter of the largest land mammals on the Earth, these antique firearms dealers, trinket peddlers, and others are getting any traction with lawmakers. But they are. Several of the state bills have already been blocked. And at the federal level, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has introduced legislation to deny authority to the FWS to work on a rule to restrict the ivory trade any further.

Right-thinking people might consider the enactment of anti-ivory trade bills or rules as a no-brainer. But resistance to this legislation has been fierce, and it’s time for good-hearted people to weigh in and remind lawmakers and the broader public of the terrible toll that this trade is taking on elephants. When the elephants are gone from the wild, Africa will lose billions in tourism revenue a year, since these animals are perhaps the greatest natural and economic treasure these nations have. It’s been exciting to see moves from China to restrict some of the trade. The question is, will the United States continue to be a conservation leader, or will the influence of profit-making ivory dealers prompt enough politicians to gum up these important bills and block their enactment?

Opposition, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Victoria Worthy says:

    Please stop ivory trade!

  2. Barbara G. says:

    At the rate the killing of these elephants is progressing most of these intelligent animals will be gone in 15 to 20 years probably sooner. What I will never understand is why the countries that will lose so much when the elephants are gone are not really stepping up their military to defend these animals? I have went to some of the sites on the net that have articles about what is being done but its simply not enough there needs to be a all out war declared against the poachers with shoot on sight orders. These elephants are being gunned down with military weapons…they don’t have a chance.

  3. Dodie Shepard says:

    There needs to be the most stringent punishment against any one in any country that is poaching, we just don’t have the attention of the worst on our planet. and that is in all countries.

  4. Christina Tenti says:

    China didn’t restrict anything. Please research before posting about China. Pre-convention ivory and ivory from Hong Kong is excluded. Hong Kong is the major importer. It’s a show.

  5. Bob Stevenson says:

    I would encourage anyone in any state, with a Congressional FOOL, that hates animal welfare, like Alaska’s Rep Don Young or such high sounding organization’s like the NRA, to please speak out against such ignorance, and help to stop animal abuse and destruction for GREED!

  6. Rebeca Peraza says:

    It is very discouraging for humanity to see how far we have come in destroying so many animals species, and in destroying forests and habitats for animals wether it be in the Artic, the Amazons, Africa, Asia, America and Australia. It is a world wide epidemic.
    How can ivory trade and illegal poaching be more lucrative than protecting the elephants, and rhinos too. They are majestic animals that have walked this land and must continue to walk this land freely and protected from human predators. These animals are not aggressive. They are a unit that protect each other just like humans do with our families.
    Money, greed, power and control should not be put before caring and love to protect them. Please stop these illegal actions and help preserve these amazing elephants and do not let them go extinct. Humans need to recapture our empathy and conscience to save our world! We need these animals!

  7. Carole Menninger says:

    The NRA and its selfish, arrogant members are ONLY concerned with themselves, as always, so hunters, trappers can continue their awful trophy hunting. To stop passage of critical legislation to ban elephant and ivory is outrageous……and when the NRA claims to care about these elephants, what a dam lie! But their buddies in state and federal govt have been bought off to do their bidding. This is WHY we have to work with the members in govt who will NOT back down from this awful self-serving, anti-wildlife group.

  8. Carole Menninger says:

    This really boils down to canned hunting ranches, trophy hunters, trappers and those backing the very lucrative ivory trade, ALL who do NOT want to see ivory trafficking stopped……this is big business, big money, and groups like the NRA and other right-wing groups ONLY care about their own self-interests and them creating a phony org called The Elephant Protection Assn – WHO THE H DO THEY THINK THEY ARE KIDDING?
    they do not give a dam about elephants, rhinos, except for their ivory.

  9. BP says:

    While this legislation is commendable, the Humane Society and other organizations need to recognize that some states are crafting legislation that is too broad, and may impact other hobbies and professions. Specifically, the New York legislation bans the buying or selling or mammoth ivory. There are thousands of amateur fossil collectors who work together with paleontologists on a daily basis within the science, much the same as amateur astronomers work with professional astronomers. Fossil clubs and amateur collectors alert paleontologists to new finds. Many fossil museums actively buy and sell fossil teeth from mammoths, mastodons, whales and sharks. Poorly worded legislation could legally prevent a 10-year-old kid from buying or selling a fossil he finds on the beach or in his backyard. Poorly trained wildlife officers and “rent a cops” could arrest the kid and confiscate fossils that they “suspect” are ivory when they are not. This could embarrass the Humane Society if the arrest was linked to legislation sponsored by them and ultimately defeat the original goal–protecting extant animals from poachers.

  10. Yesim Erke-Magent says:

    This is insane. Will you please share bill numbers, so that we can contact our representatives accordingly? Thanks

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