Sales of Elephant Ivory Outlawed

The Department of the Interior has introduced new measures that effectively ban any commercial trade of elephant ivory in the United States, the Jewelers Vigilance Committee announced March 13.

The new rules prohibit:

• All commercial imports of African elephant ivory, including antiques

• All commercial exports, except for bona fide antiques and certain non­commercial items. (To qualify as an antique, an item must be more than 100 years old and meet other requirements under the Endangered Species Act.)

• All sales of elephant ivory across state lines, except for bona fide antiques

• Sales within a state, unless a seller can demonstrate that an item was lawfully imported prior to 1990 for African elephants and 1975 for Asian elephants

• The import of more than two African elephant sport-hunter trophies per year. (Previously, this was unlimited.)

“Prior to these changes, the African ivory trade was permitted if it was antique or preconvention,” says JVC assistant general counsel Sara Yood. “These trades bring the African elephant trade in line with the Asian elephant trade,” which is also banned.

“[Elephant ivory] is still legal to own and it is legal to gift and to inherit,” she says. “It is no longer legal to sell.”

And while selling antique ivory is legal, Yood notes the burden of proof has shifted to the seller. “Previously the Fish and Wildlife Service had to prove your ivory was not antique,” she says, but now it’s the other way around.

The new rules don’t affect warthog or hippo ivory. Hippo ivory does have limitations, Yood says, but warthog does not because the animals shed their tusks.

In a release announcing the decision, the Department of the Interior said the trade in elephant ivory is a “loophole” that encourages illegal poaching.