Breaking News: Obama Announces Landmark Commercial Trade Ban on Ivory

By on July 25, 2015 with 30 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

With Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, President Barack Obama announced that the United States will take urgently needed steps to curtail wildlife trafficking and address the devastating elephant poaching crisis, issuing a proposed rule that will establish a near-complete ban on the commercial ivory trade in America. The president made his remarks just minutes ago in Kenya, one of the countries in Africa that has seen its elephant population decline from 175,000 in the 1970s to about 35,000 today because of a merciless onslaught by poachers, including Al-Shabab militants coming out of Somalia.

We’ve been calling for U.S. leadership to combat the illicit trade in ivory, and we are glad that the President is using the bully pulpit to draw attention to this crisis and to take a critical step toward strengthening U.S. policy. According to one estimate, the United States is the world’s second largest market for ivory product sales, behind China, and we cannot claim the mantle of leadership on this issue without taking bold action commensurate with the crisis that’s unfolded. China’s recent announcement that it, too, would take action on the subject is also enormously significant, and we hope that our president’s action spurs the biggest power in the Old World to adopt a timeline to phase out commercial sales of ivory in that vast market.

It is estimated that one elephant is killed in Africa every 15 minutes – with much of the killing conducted by militias and militants turning tusks into cash and intent on destabilizing nations and looting them of their resources. At the current rates of killing, this iconic species may go extinct in little more than a few decades.

Two years ago in Tanzania, the President announced an executive order to direct action and better organize the U.S. government’s efforts to combat wildlife trafficking. The proposed rule announced today is a derivative of that prior declaration. Another positive outcome from the executive order has been the U.S. Agency for International Development’s investment of millions of dollars in new programs across more than a dozen countries to help combat wildlife trafficking. Congress has called for a study on the link between poaching and terrorism, and the Department of Defense is now getting involved to track down terrorist poachers. Private philanthropists are contributing weapons and wardens to help fight the militants in the forests of Central Africa, the savannahs in the east, and also in the mixed habitats in southern Africa. Botswana has banned all sport hunting of elephants, and is building its economy around sustainable and humane tourism.

We’ll undoubtedly hear some carping from people who want to sell ivory in the United States – people who place their own private circumstances and wishes ahead of the global interest in saving elephants and protecting the economies of African nations. I am dumbfounded by the inability of these privileged few to see beyond their own circumstances. This is an issue not just about protecting elephants, but alleviating poverty, spurring economic growth, and fighting off people intent on destroying governments and terrorizing communities.

More than any other animate or inanimate resource, it is the wildlife, especially elephants, who draw millions of people to Africa. These wildlife enthusiasts spend billions of dollars and their commerce fuels efforts to educate children, pay for vaccinations, and provide jobs to people in both urban and rural areas.

Here’s a case where protecting wildlife is bound inextricably with core concerns about economic and national security. The range states in Africa would be devastated if they lost their elephants. We can help them best by closing down our markets for ivory in the United States and China and shutting down the economic incentives for terrorists to kill elephants for their coveted tusks.

The HSUS applauds President Obama and his administration for cracking down on the commercial ivory trade. We have been working hard to ensure the release of this long-awaited rule that will help save the last remaining African elephants. We need to flood the White House with comments in support of it, to forestall blocking maneuvers by some lawmakers in Congress and by special interests.

Save elephants from poaching »

Humane Society International, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Melissa Tedrowe says:

    Such good news! Thank you President Obama!

  2. Margaret Ziolkowski says:

    This is great. Now we need to pass a law to impose harsh sentences on those that abuse or neglect animals in the USA!

  3. Bella says:

    What does “near-complete ban” mean?? Either it’s a full ban, or there’s room to wiggle…

  4. corinna fritzmann says:

    stopp for the animals

  5. Rosemarie says:

    I live in SA Africa and feel the same as Obama stop trading in Ivory I love tthem

  6. Laura says:

    I am working with the David shepherd Wildlife Foundation to prevent poaching in Zambia’s Kafue National Park.

  7. Alyse West says:

    Pray that Obama doesn’t change his mind on this!
    The elephant is part of every childs heritage…we all have memories of our parents reading to us about the animals in the world….most all people have a memory of seeing elephants at one point of our lives….YES…SAVE THE “ELEPHANTS”

  8. karen haddon says:

    this has got to be the best news this poaching must stop or we will never see an elephant in the wild again to kill such a beautiful animal is barbaric

  9. Alison Solski says:

    What is a “near-complete ban?” Another name for a loophole?

  10. Gretchen Edmiston says:

    Thank You President Obama! Saving elephants is a wonderful legacy. That is the man I voted for twice!!!

  11. adele urbanek says:

    Tiere sind Lebewesen und fühlen so wie wir. Lasst sie Leben.

  12. Marilyn Ramos says:

    I’m very happy to read about this great news. Everyday I sign different petitions. Mainly animal subjects. I’m so pleased to know that action is taking place against animal abuse, cruelty and killings. The fight is not over yet. Thank u President Obama for hearing our pleads and taking action.

  13. Daphne Painter says:

    Thank you Mr President, well done.

  14. veronika aksak says:


  15. Raymond Watts says:

    Without co-operation from the major powers in the world there is no future for wildlife or mankind. It is vital that we have good, strong world leaders that are not afraid to change the world.

  16. Laura Burnand Caminiti says:

    That’s good news for elephants in Africa…. The best thing I’ve heard come out of our president’s mouth in a long time! Save the elephants!! What else can be done? It’s so devastating that poaching runs that rapid. Awful.

  17. rudolf mühl says:

    not contain, but quit !!!

  18. ron thomas says:

    BAN ivory world wide…

  19. Karen mariani says:

    Thank u for all u do to help the elephants. The world doesn’t need ivory trinkets. We need elephants!!

  20. minoxidil jiwa says:

    Thank you…

  21. Jemma Nyagah says:

    Regarding President Obama’s ban- a plea using the founder of the African National Parks words;
    My Grandfather sometimes known as the Unsung Hero of the National Parks Mervyn Cowie OBE;

    We have a priceless heritage yet it is rapidly disappearing;

    “An elephant weighing five tons is slaughtered for the sake of two tusks. A terrified rhino is trapped for a few a few pounds of horn on his nose. The waste and carnage is appalling.

    A single campaign against poachers is not enough. In talking to an old hunter on those lines he said to me,” I don’t understand all this ballyhoo about poaching. Africans have been killing and trapping wild animals for centuries, probably thousands of years, and they haven’t destroyed everything. So what the hell is all this fuss about now? Why is poaching so unlawful? ” I explained that in years gone by Africans undoubtedly took their share of Nature’s bounty, whether it was in the form of wild animals, trees, or anything else. Today however, the few remaining sanctuaries in which wildlife can survive are so few and so restricted that the impact of poaching is very much greater. Moreover prices in the black market, especially for rhino horn and ivory have soared up to heights which make the hunting of wild animals into a racket and not a necessity.

    The poacher is the killer, but as Obama almost said, he is not the villain. Any future campaign must be directed against the traders ( the demand ) who deal illegally in ivory, rhino horn and other trophies. It is the trader who provides the means to finance the poacher, to entice him to trap and kill, whilst reclining safely in the affluence of their ill gotten gains.

    Game farming makes more sense in low rainfall areas the most profitable crop would be wild animals. How very much more profitable to do this lawfully and properly providing a proper livelihood for those who otherwise live unlawfully.

    Few can see the reason in preserving game. Even if they understand that tourists who come to see and photograph wild animals spend millions of pounds in the country. It is not enough. No one can appease a poor farmer who is struggling to grow crops if his entire shamba is plundered in one night by a herd of buffaloes.. he has a justifiable grievance. He cannot be a supporter of schemes to which he derives no benefit directly.

    When we think of our land and our scanty crops we grew in semi arid areas legalising game farming seems a logical use of our lavish heritage. Our endowment of wild life is an asset of great value, a priceless contribution to mankind. Conservation and game managed farming?

    He foresaw a time in his lifetime, which is now critical;

    ” When National Parks, will be fenced… there will be no room for the animals to roam at will. Inside these sanctuaries there will be more and more need for man to assume full the full responsibilities of management, based on scientific knowledge.

    Such a permanent preservation plan could easily be achieved if other countries took a greater share of the responsibility. The people of Kenya are entrusted with this lavish heritage but it is beyond their financial resources to preserve it. To train and legalise game ranching. To better preserve the parks. The money required is like a drop in the ocean when judged against the annual budgets of other countries.

    This fund is my Grandfather’s plea on behalf of the Wild animals, he had spent most of his life trying to protect, it would be the ” most constructive way of assisting the Kenyan Government, independent or otherwise to safegaurd the main pillars inn the country’s economic structure.
    The World must play a part, in helping Kenya create a future where the World’s children see our priceless heritage.

  22. correna porto says:

    Please stop the slaughter
    We need to save what’s left of allllll our wildlife this planet is meant for all life not just man
    Please save our mammals from extinction!!!!! BAN POACHING

  23. Sandra Romero says:


  24. Larry Laverty says:

    We almost managed to do it. Mankind was on the verge of exterminating all the elephants of Africa. But here we are, it started with a small few, and now we are thousands. We the caring, those of us of the human race with hearts and minds will no longer stand by while a relative few destroy the remaining precious elephants. No more. it’s about time the President stood up. It’s about time the U.S. purged itself and stood strong against evil.

  25. jennifer pease says:

    Thank you President Obama !!

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