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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Announces Near-Complete Ban on Elephant Ivory

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New regulations aimed at cutting down on illegal ivory trade. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today a near-total ban on the commercial importation of elephant ivory in an attempt to help cut down on elephant poaching.

Under the new rules, which go into effect July 6, the sale, importation and exportation of elephant ivory will be more limited than ever before. The new bans come as a result of an executive order by President Obama meant to help combat wildlife trafficking back in 2013. The rule making process under the endangered species act is just now being completed.

There will be exceptions to the rules. Instruments, firearms, furniture and antiques will be allowed under limited exceptions. The three former types of items fall under specific criteria and may have to contain less than 200 grams of ivory.

Antiques will also be exempt to importation rules as defined under rules in the endangered species act.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell serves as co-chair of Obama’s Wildlife Trafficking task force and praised the decision to implement the ban and encouraged other countries to follow with similar rules.

“Today’s bold action underscores the United States’ leadership and commitment to ending the scourge of elephant poaching and the tragic impact it’s having on wild populations,” Jewell said in a press release. “We hope other nations will act quickly and decisively to stop the flow of blood ivory by implementing similar regulations, which are crucial to ensuring our grandchildren and their children know these iconic species.”

Estimates of elephants killed for their ivory number near 100,000 in just the last three years. And the Fish and Wildlife Service says current laws don’t do enough to stop these mass killings or the flow of illegal ivory.  According to the release, once illegal ivory gets onto the market, it becomes almost impossible to distinguish from the legal variety.

“The new rule will provide federal agents with clearer lines of demarcation to identify illegal ivory,” the release states. “Desire for elephant ivory, mostly in Asia, is so great that it grossly outstrips the legal supply and creates a void in the marketplace that ivory traffickers are eager to fill.

“Perpetuating legal ivory trade only serves to stimulate this consumer demand and further threaten wild elephant populations,” the statement said.

Fish and Wildlife also said the rule change is happening simply because public support for the ban has been high.

“Since we proposed this rule in 2015, we received more than 1.3 million comments from the public, demonstrating that Americans care deeply about elephants and overwhelmingly support African elephant conservation,” Service Director Dan Ashe said in the release.

More information on the proposed changes can be read in a PDF file the Fish and Wildlife Service posted on their website.

Even though the majority of the changes are to the commercial ivory trade, hunting is affected under the proposed rules. Previously, there was no limit on the number of hunted trophies one could be imported. Under the new rules, hunters would be limited to two a year.

But it’s worth noting that these new proposed rules are limited strictly to ivory from African elephants, which should mean hunters could import other types of ivory from other species.

The rest of the rules are set to be available online on June 6.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Announces Near-Complete Ban on Elephant Ivory