Baby elephant in South Africa.
California congresswoman, Toni G. Atkins, introduced a bill yesterday (AB 96) that would close a major loophole allowing ivory to be sold all over the state. Thousands of miles away, across Africa, poachers are decimating elephants for their ivory tusks. A recent study estimated that one fifth of the continent’s elephants have been slaughtered in just three years, while experts say that 65 percent of the continent forest elephants—believed by some to be a distinct species—have been killed since 2002. The U.S. is generally believed to be the second largest market for ivory after China.
“The slaughter of elephants for their tusks…is as senseless as it is cruel,”” said Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego, who is the Assembly Speaker. “California recognized that and enacted a law almost 40 years ago to end the ivory trade here, but that law needs strengthening in order to be effective. AB 96 closes the loophole that allows the illegal ivory trade to continue to flourish and adds real enforcement teeth to the law so California can do our part to end the slaughter.”
While California has already banned the sale of ivory, the current law allows any ivory from before 1977 to be sold as an “antique.” However, traders have used this loophole to continue to sell ivory with impunity. Indeed, a recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimated that up to 90 percent of ivory sold in Los Angeles is illegal and 80 percent sold in San Francisco, meaning the ivory came from elephants killed post 1977. In total, probably half the ivory sold in the state is illegal.
Elly Pepper, with the NRDC, called the findings “astonishing.”
“I think if people realized that the pieces being displayed right now on local store shelves most often come from elephants that were killed in recent years they’d be shocked and outraged, “said Pepper.”But most people don’t know that the great majority of ivory products these days are altered to look like antiques in order to appear legitimate.”
If passed, AB 96 would close the loophole, prohibiting anyone from buying, selling, or importing ivory, including possessing any ivory with an intent to sell. Traders and buyers could be charged with a misdemeanor and leveled a civic penalty of up to $10,000. The new law would not only apply to ivory, but also rhino horn.
“We are driving these magnificent animals toward extinction across Africa unless we stop the killing of an estimated 96 elephants each day, stop the trafficking and stop the demand for ivory,” said John Calvelli, Wildlife Conservation Society’s Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and the Director of WCS’s 96 Elephants campaign. “As long as demand for ivory remains high and enforcement efforts are low, the legal trade will continue to serve as a front for criminal syndicates. A California ban on ivory sales is an important step forward in this global effort to save elephants.”
(10/06/2014) Elephants are worth 76 times more when they’re alive than dead, according to a new analysis released this past weekend. The report follows on the heels of findings by WWF that the world has lost 50 percent of its wildlife over the past 40 years, with more than half of African elephants killed for ivory in just one decade.
Joint force uses Google Earth to find elephant poaching camps in Mozambique, captures poachers in raid
(09/30/2014) On Monday, September 22, two ivory poachers were arrested in Mozambique during a late-night raid near Niassa National Reserve. The arrest followed on the heels of nearly two-dozen reported kills in the reserve in just the first two weeks of the month.
WCS-led raids lead to six arrests near Mozambique’s largest reserve
(09/12/2014) A joint force of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and government authorities are in the midst of carrying out a series of raids against poachers in Mozambique aimed at halting the illegal killing of elephants in Niassa National Reserve, the country’s largest protected area. Six men, thought to be responsible for killing 39 elephants in 2014, were arrested in an early morning bust in the town of Marrupa, just south of the park.
(09/09/2014) After 20 months, Zambia has lifted its ban on hunting, allowing trophy hunters to target numerous species in the wildlife-rich country including elephants. The announcement was made by the country’s Tourism and Art’s Minister, Jean Kapata, who stated that the ban had resulted in a loss of revenue to the Zambia Wild Life Authority (ZAWA).
20 percent of Africa’s elephants killed in three years
(08/19/2014) Around 100,000 elephants were killed by poachers for their ivory on the African continent in just three years, according to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Between 2010 and 2012 an average of 6.8 percent of the elephant population was killed annually, equaling just over 20 percent of the continent’s population in that time.
Elephant poaching soars as Sumatran forests turn into plantations
(08/14/2014) There has been a spike in elephant deaths in Sumatra this year, and conversion of rainforest to plantations is one of the main causes. The number of Sumatran elephants poached in the province of Riau so far this year is staggering, with 22 reported kills in the first six months of 2014 compared to 14 for the entirety of 2013.
Jane Goodall: how many elephants will be killed on World Elephant Day?
(08/12/2014) Marking World Elephant Day, a designation intended to raise awareness about the plight of elephants that are being widely poached for the ivory trade, primatologist Jane Goodall urged people to have greater compassion for Earth’s largest land animals.
Want to save Africa’s elephants? Close all ivory markets
(08/07/2014) The only way to save the long-suffering elephants of Africa is to close every ivory market on the planet and destroy all ivory stockpiles, according to a bold new essay in Conservation Biology. Written by Elizabeth Bennett, the Vice President for Species Conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society, the paper is likely to prove controversial.
New Jersey bans elephant ivory trade
(08/05/2014) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed into law a ban on elephant ivory sales, reports NorthJersey.com. The measure, passed earlier by the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly, establishes fines for first-time offenders caught buying or selling ivory products. Repeat offenders have stiffer fines.