- California has some of the largest illegal ivory markets in the U.S.
- In October, last year, the state banned the sale of nearly all ivory and rhino horn.
- The Ivory Education Institute challenged the ban, claiming that the law was unconstitutional.
- The Los Angeles Superior Court , however, upheld California’s state ban.
In October, last year, the state of California banned the sale of nearly all ivory and rhino horn. The new law makes it illegal to trade almost all ivory, including those imported prior to June 1, 1977.
But the Ivory Education Institute — a nonprofit working to enhance the understanding of ivory — challenged the state ban this year, claiming that the law was unconstitutional.
Their lawsuit stated that the new law (Assembly Bill 96; now California Fish and Game Code Section 2022) “deprives Plaintiffs of their property without compensation and is otherwise unconstitutional in that pre-1977 ivory objects legally acquired owned by Plaintiffs will be rendered worthless as of July 1, 2016.” According to Godfrey Harris, executive director of the Ivory Education Institute, the ban is an “overreaction on the part of our state legislators to heavy pressure from the animal rights groups”.
On Monday, however, the Los Angeles Superior Court upheld California’s ban on trade in ivory and rhino horn, rejecting claims that the law was unconstitutional. Conservation groups that helped pass the AB 96 in 2015 — Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Wildlife Conservation Society — helped defend the law on behalf of the State of California.
“We are thrilled that the court unequivocally upheld the constitutionality of AB 96 and California’s right to legislate for the elimination of the illegal ivory trade and the preservation of wildlife Californians care very deeply about,” Rebecca Cary, staff attorney for The Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement.
California has some of the largest illegal ivory markets in the U.S., according to a survey by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
While previous California law banned the sale of elephant parts, it allowed the purchase and sale of ivory imported into the state prior to June 1, 1977. AB 96 closes this loophole. It now makes it illegal to import, sell, offer for sale, purchase, barter, and possess with intent to sell any ivory (including teeth and tusks of elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, mastodon, narwhal, walrus, warthog and whale) or rhinoceros horn products, with a few exceptions. The ban extends to both raw and worked ivory, and prohibits advertising the sale of any items containing ivory. Penalties for violations go up to roughly $50,000 and/or one year in prison.
“We all have a stake in elephants’ future on this planet, and states can and should be involved in the fight against poaching and trafficking,” Peter LaFontaine, campaigns manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said in the statement. “Ivory is worth far less than a living, breathing animal; and by upholding AB 96, California is helping to change the mindset that biodiversity is a secondary consideration.”