The White House has introduced new measures that effectively ban any commercial trade of elephant ivory in the United States, the Jewelers Vigilance Committee announced.
The new rules stipulate:
- All commercial imports of African elephant ivory, including antiques, are prohibited.
- All commercial exports are prohibited, except for bona fide antiques and certain noncommercial items.
- All sales of elephant ivory across state lines are banned, except for bona fide antiques. Sales within a state are also banned, unless the seller can demonstrate that an item was lawfully imported prior to 1990 for African elephants and 1975 for Asian elephants.
- To qualify as an antique, an item must be more than 100 years old and meet other requirements under the Endangered Species Act. In addition, the burden of proof has shifted: “Previously the Fish and Wildlife Service had to prove your ivory was not antique,” says Sara Yood, assistant general counsel for JVC. “Now it’s up to the seller.”
- Individuals are limited to importing 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 pre-convention,” Yood says. “These trades bring the African elephant trade in line with the Asian elephant trade,” which is also banned.
She says the new rules make it almost impossible to sell elephant ivory in the United States.
“It is still legal to own and it is legal to gift and it is legal to inherit,” she says. “It is no longer legal to sell.”
The new rules do not affect warthog or hippo ivory. Hippo ivory does have limitations, Yood says, but warthog does not because they shed their tusks.
In a news release announcing the decision, the Interior Dept. noted that illegal poachers killed some 35,000 elephants in 2012.
“The U.S. market is contributing to the crisis now threatening the African elephant,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe in a statement. “The largely unregulated domestic trade in elephant ivory has served as a loophole that gives cover to illegal trade.”
For more information, see this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service FAQ.