U.S. Ivory Ban is Reducing Availability
An assessment of selected domestic ivory markets in the U.S. found that state bans appear to be having an impact on reducing the open availability of elephant ivory in formerly significant urban markets.
Researchers from the NGO TRAFFIC assessed the availability, quantity and price of elephant ivory items in six major U.S. metropolitan areas during May-July of this year and found a total of 1,589 ivory items offered for sale by 227 vendors, an average of seven per outlet.
This survey was carried out around the introduction, on July 6, 2016, of U.S. Federal regulations amounting to a near-total ban on imports, exports and domestic trade of African elephant ivory. Under these new regulations, sellers now assume the burden of proving that their ivory item qualifies for a specific exemption.
While commercial imports of African elephant ivory were already banned, the new rules close other loopholes in our country's ivory laws by further restricting ivory exports from the U.S. and sales of ivory items between U.S. states, along with reducing the number of elephants that trophy hunters can import into the country — which had previously been unlimited.
The final rule prohibits most commerce in ivory but makes specific, limited exceptions for certain pre-existing manufactured items – such as musical instruments, furniture pieces and firearms – that contain less than 200 grams of ivory and meet other specific criteria. Antiques are also exempt from the act’s prohibitions. The rule is limited to African elephant ivory and does not further regulate ivory derived from other species, such as walrus, whale and mammoth.
The findings were released following the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting that ended this month in Johannesburg, South Africa, where world governments were called upon to phase out domestic ivory markets.
“While physical market availability in the U.S. appears to be declining in the face of strong regulatory and public awareness measures by the government to ban the elephant ivory trade, vendors generally lack a clear understanding of the new Federal and State laws regulating the commercial sale of elephant ivory,” said Rachel Kramer, Senior Program Officer for TRAFFIC in the U.S.
“The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) could help to enhance an understanding of current regulations amongst buyers and sellers through further targeted outreach, to lessen this confusion.”
The report notes the possibility that some vendors may be tempted to move ivory to states with weaker legislation. This would challenge the progress made, but Kramer hopes that over time the new regulations will have a dampening effect on demand and availability that could reduce the market substantially, to perhaps even negligible levels.
The locations visited for this market snapshot included Boston, the greater Los Angeles area, New York City, Portland, San Francisco and the greater Washington, DC area. Some have state-level legislation in place to regulate commercial sales, while others do not. Researchers found a total of 1,589 ivory items offered for sale by 227 vendors.
The greater Washington, DC, area was found to have the highest number of observed elephant ivory items (68 vendors with 658 items), followed by Portland (37 vendors with 254 items), New York City (41 vendors with 224 items), Boston (22 vendors with 188 items), the greater Los Angeles area (42 vendors with 177 items), and San Francisco (17 vendors with 88 items).
In April, Carnival Corporation joined the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, a coalition of non-profit organizations, companies, foundations and media interests that work closely with the U.S. government in a collaboration to reduce the purchase and sale of illegal wildlife products in the United States.
According to recent estimates from the U.S. Department of State, wildlife trafficking generates approximately $10 billion per year in illegal profits for criminal syndicates that are masterminding the killing, transport and marketing of illegal wildlife products. Wildlife trafficking has contributed to nearly 50 percent of the entire African lion population being decimated over the past three decades and approximately 100,000 elephants killed for their ivory in a recent three-year period - an average of approximately one every 15 minutes.
The report is available here.