Breaking news: U.S. restricts commercial ivory trade, with China expected to follow

By on June 2, 2016 with 51 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

The United States today announced a near-complete ban on the commercial ivory trade, marking a historic step forward in ending the global elephant poaching crisis. This is just the latest of nearly three dozen major rulemaking actions addressing animal protection concerns during President Obama’s two terms, and one in which the president himself has taken an active interest, having made a number of public statements on the poaching crisis and its threat to elephants and African nations.

The rule, announced this morning by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will bar the sale of ivory from African elephants across state lines and further restrict commercial exports. It will provide very limited exceptions for interstate trade of antique items that are over 100 years old or contain a small amount of ivory.

The rule comes just a week before the United States-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the eighth such session between the two countries with the most active ivory markets in the world. U.S. action in this arena has encouraged China to pledge to follow suit, replicating our own domestic policies to end the ivory trade in the world’s most populous nation.

In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, responding to an HSUS legal petition, said it will consider increasing Endangered Species Act protections for the African elephant.

In recent years, we have called on Congress, the Administration, and states to take action against the illegal trade in ivory because elephant poaching has surged in the past decade. Poachers are killing elephants faster than they are able to reproduce.  It is estimated that every 15 minutes an elephant is killed for his or her ivory.

Poaching and wildlife trafficking don’t just terrorize animals; they fuel terrorism and instability around the world. Profits from the sales of poached elephant tusks pay for sophisticated transnational criminal syndicates to smuggle arms, humans, and other illicit goods, and there’s evidence that the illegal ivory trade is helping finance extremist groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army and Sudan’s Janjaweed militias.

Today’s historic announcement from the USFWS is by no means the end of the battle – more like the next stage of it. The fight against poachers and traffickers requires not just action from the government, but a transformational shift in how we, as humans, view and interact with wild animals. No animal should be killed to churn out dispensable luxury goods. Elephants and other wildlife are worth far more alive than dead, and it’s this principle that I discuss extensively in The Humane Economy. Wildlife viewing draws millions of people to Africa each year, and enthusiasts spend billions of dollars annually that these nations use to educate children, pay for vaccinations, and provide jobs to people in both urban and rural areas.

Ivory looks best on its original owners. Killing elephants and hacking off their tusks enriches terrorists, robs Africa of one of its great revenue generators, and denies future generations the opportunity to see these iconic creatures. The policy announced today is the right one on so many levels, and The HSUS applauds the USFWS and the Obama Administration for taking this important step.

P.S. Even as we celebrate a national policy on the ivory trade, it’s critical to remember that the states have a key and complementary role in the battle against the ivory trade and wildlife trafficking. A ballot initiative in Oregon would protect some of the world’s most iconic animals, including elephants, rhinos, lions, sea turtles, rays, and sharks. Visit Save Endangered Animals Oregon for more information on how we can get this initiative qualified in the weeks ahead and passed this November.

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

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  1. Catherine L. Winsor says:

    Please! All human beings wherever you may live, STOP the horrific ivory and rhino horn trade!! Also stop killing wild animals and endangered species!! We are supposed to have “humanity” towards all living things. PLEASE remember this. All societies are reflected in how they treat their animals.
    Asia, all of it, needs to stop treating magnificent animals as “medicine” or “sex enhancers.” It’s simply NOT TRUE.

    • Kathi says:

      It is very sad you even have to say that. The human race thinks they are so smart and yet the simplest things have to be pointed out to them over and over .

    • Robert Sanders says:

      So true Catherine.

    • Johanne Marion says:

      So true, we must stop taking everthing as if it was ours! It is not, we are part of everthing. Every living species on this planet as a purpose and a right to live. Extinction is forever!

    • Ellen ewers says:

      You says exactly, what I means Catherine….Thank you so much!
      Every day is so hard to vake up to….alvays the same: Human’s torture, pain and murder of defenceless, innocent, wonderful and beautiful animal’s. For me are all animal’s a present from God. We must protect and love them. Thats is a big SHAME, what Human’s do with animal’s!!!
      Why can/will this worlds must powerful men not stop this? Our beautiful Globe is a miserable place becouse people are so greedy and ruthless and have no compassion with animal’s, but are ignorants and conscienceless….Please stop it…now…before it is to late….please!!!

  2. Catherine Winsor says:

    I would like to dedicate all my efforts and contacts with elephants to the great Lynne Leakey, my guide in Africa. She died in 2014 and leaves a great legacy. Elephants were her favorites…mine too.

  3. John Lampson says:

    Best. President. Ever. And a great day for elephants- let’s hope it turns things around for them.

  4. Vicki Gibson says:

    I am sooo happy to hear this, however, we still have to STOP China and Russia, and Japan from importing and even buying ANY wild elephant tusk along with the rhino etc….we can’t loose these animals due to our human greed!! It is shocking to me that it has taken up to loosing the white rhino before most even looked at this situation. Anyway, I may not have money but I do have a voice and I do not buy anything that has to do with wild animals and their welfare. Fair hunting is a must in North locations, which is being managed properly. Otherwise, Elephants etc need to be on this earth, not lost forever! Thank you for your voice in this matter. Cheers, Vicki Gibson, Nature Display Artist for a nature centre in Canada.

  5. Lois Macerola says:

    Iam overwhelmed with joy regarding this accomplishment. I work for NYSDEC
    and our ECOs are very involved in this movement. Very, Very, happy. Thank you for giving me a chance to be part of this great endeavor.

  6. George Selkirk says:

    I thought this had been done, at least in America, long ago.

  7. Alan Maldonado says:

    No se puede seguir con está practica

  8. Cher Dale says:

    My heart sings for joy in such a win.

    However, the work is NOT done.

    We have more to do in the CHANGE of history for ALL animals.

    Kindness Matters to All Living Beings.

    Please stop EATING other Beings.

    Kindness Matters to All Living Beings

    Thank you HSUS for all that you do!

  9. Stacy Austin says:


  10. john zolis says:

    Should be an outright ban – Just loopholes to counterfeit age and authenticity

  11. Bridget Faria says:


  12. Annoula Wylderich says:

    Making progress feels so good!

  13. Stacey says:

    Why can’t we find out who is buying the ivory , its expensive we know its rich people and post their names so if its people or companies I buy from we can choose to not contribute to the slaughter of these beautiful creatures.

    • Gail McKay says:

      You can readily find stores and markets selling ivory pieces (carved figures, jewelry etc.) throughout China…and probably other Asian countries. Pressure large chains, such as Walmart, not to buy from these countries at all until the ivory trade stops.

    • Ron Gover says:

      Praise that thought. I totally agree with this.

    • carola says:

      i agree with you stacey, we should have a ‘wall of shame’ page to expose these vile, self-centred, image conscious men & women who want to show-off their wild animal trophies to their friends.

  14. Gerlinde Carmack says:

    This is a heartbreaking situation to think our children and grandchildren will only know our beautiful elephants as pictures in books and magazines. There may come a day when their only safe haven WILL be in a zoo or conservation center where they will be safe to reproduce. But even in our own country elephants are abused physically and mentally. I’m happy that China is may be joining this important mission. We really need to put the pressure on India and Thailand. Their lives there are beyond inhumane. I pray we can reverse this disaster. It makes me just sit and cry. Thank you for your great efforts and progress in this endeavor and your e-mails to share your progress with myself and my family.

  15. Darrell says:

    While I applaud, on one hand, the ban on commercial trade in elephant ivory, I have to ask……Does this ban include mammoth, mastodon or fossilized ivory? If it does, then it’s stupid and asinine.
    Banning trade on fossilized ivories will do NOTHING to save the African elephant. I’ve been doing scrimshaw for over 25 years now. I have always used mammoth and mastodon ivory. I made that choice years ago as I did not believe in the slaughter of elephants. I bought it directly from the Eskimos and Inuits in Alaska.
    I also do not believe in the slaughter of whales. So I’ve always used fake whale’s teeth for that part of my scrimshaw.

    Laws are fine, just show some common sense.

    • Renee DeMartin says:

      I agree Darrell. However I find it is difficult sometimes to tell the difference between fossil ivory and “new” ivory. Certainly not all the fossil ivory I’ve seen has the gorgeous dark coloration. Any tips for telling them apart??

  16. Darlene BROWN says:

    STOP NOW !!!

    • Lenny guardino says:

      Darlene!!! How right you are!!!!! How true this is!!!! An don’t forget the purest form of cowardness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…ttyl darlene!!…??????????????

  17. Anna Pritchard says:

    Dear Wayne,
    Thank you so so much for working so hard to protect the beautiful, majestic elephants. They are so intelligent and social. It is truly a crime against nature to harm them (or any animal) in any way.
    So thank you and everyone else who helped with this effort from my heart.
    Anna Pritchard

  18. Gene Yakub says:

    Yay, this is great news and the first I can remember from the US Fish & Wildlife people! Next step: banning the importation of elephants (and other wild animals) for zoos and circuses.

  19. andrea Juliette says:

    I’m so glad that the defenseless inocent Elephants have protection from assessins.

  20. Robert C Bonanno says:

    I do not want my grandchildren to take their children to the Smithsonian to see a stuffed elephant and say “look kids this is what the Nella friend used to look like they used to Roman hundreds of thousands and people killed them to finance terrorism and to and Rich criminal elements”

  21. Tami says:

    Great news!! Now if we can just get our government to ban the trafficking of horses to slaughter to Mexico and Canada, that would be more than I could ever ask for!

  22. Linda King says:

    I am thrilled that each and every voice can and does make a difference! Great news for saving the elephants, and great news for all of us who care!

  23. marjorie sudduth says:

    hope and pray they can stop the killing of these beautiful animals its a shame to kill gods beautiful animals they have the rite to live please stop the killing of these elephants and all other animals as well

  24. marjorie sudduth says:

    help stop the killing of elephants and other animals as well

  25. Pericles Xanthippou says:

    Why only African elephant? All trade in the parts of wild animals ought to be banned. Not extending the ban to, e.g., Asian elephant will make the rule difficult to enforce.


  26. Kathy Harney says:

    I am so elated by this news!!!! You’ve made my day, week. I can’t believe people are finally seeing the light! Took long enough, but I guess better late than never. Now we also need to completely stop the killing of the other wildlife in this world!

    Thank you so very, very much!! I’m sure the elephants feel the same way.

  27. Julie Davidson says:

    China to follow suit ? Is this to draw attention away from their atrocities against the tiger having said that well done usa

  28. jody artale says:

    Yeahh I hope all Country’s follow suit as NO animal should ever ever be killed for GREED!! Animals need to be in there own habitat not inclosed ZOOS!!!

  29. Lou V says:

    Fantastic news HSUS HSI ! You have wonderful momentum why not continue it with a shark finning ban for US & CHINA, as well as ivory, “while the Going’s good” : )

  30. Joan Chiarello says:

    Thrilled for yhe elephants. Let’s keep going! Thanks so much!!!

  31. C. Stewart says:

    Many thanks Wayne and crew at The Humane Society!
    Will there be consideration to banning ivory of elephants from other countries?

  32. Adela says:

    Their are tons of people I know that walk as a herd of untamed pigs as a danger to humans as well as animals as comical as it may sound the truth be told I do not feel safe walking those streets on my own

  33. Terry D Darnell Lebanon, IN says:

    I agree with all commits.

  34. Kathy Fujimoto says:

    Thank you for the information!! Its a big step in the right direction! Thank you for all that you are doing for these amazing animals 🙂

  35. Pat P. says:

    It should not have taken so long to mandate a ban on the importation of ivory! If it had been done a while ago, thousands of elephants would still be alive. It should have been a total ban on ALL ivory! Allowing ANY exemption for antique or small amounts just opens the gates for criminals falsifying dates of origin! Counterfeiters will increase. Also, what is considered a small amount of allowable ivory? Couldn’t that exclusion be abused?

    It has taken years of enumerable petitions, complaints, lawsuits, etc. to, finally, get ANY major ban on ivory–inexcusably long time. We’ll have to wait and see now, if much will change for this majestic persecuted elephant, if poaching will abate for the U.S. market, if criminals will be prosecuted and, if the penalties will be sufficiently severe.

    I won’t hold my breath.

    • Diana says:

      I agree and I hold offer no praise for the Obama administration. It’s all “smoke and mirrors”. He throws out a few crumbs to the animal welfare community while turning a blind eye to other, domestic tragedies ie the wholesale slaughter of millions of animals by traps and poison set out by the USFW

  36. Susan Thornton says:

    I am very pleased that something is finally being done by the United States to help to diminish our role in the poaching problem; however, I am disappointed to see that this final rule still allows for trophy hunting and the import of two trophies per hunter per year. This type of hunting is totally unnecessary and still needlessly diminishes endangered herds. I cannot imagine why it was seen as necessary to allow this. The overall lack of respect shown by humankind for other living creatures truly appalls me.

  37. Mary ann says:

    Anyone who is a lover of the majestic elephant has to be overjoyed with this step in the right direction for elephants in the wild. I also am concerned for those that have always been used in circuses. Thankfully Ringling Brothers will not be using them in their shows anymore but I recently read an article that said the Ringling elephants would be brought to their facility to retire there but that some would be used in cancer research.
    I hope you can tell me this report was wrong!! I cannot imagine subjecting an animal with such a long life span and wonderful memory to that horror.
    Has anyone seen such an article?

  38. Tcass says:

    Omg I hope and pray this really happens…

  39. goi news says:

    This is all about Govt. of Govt. of India News. Thank you for sharing information.
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