If you are looking for EIA UK, it's overhere.

Bringing the Curtain Down on U.S. Ivory

By Amy Zets, EIA Endangered Species Policy Analyst and Dan Hubbell, EIA Assistant Policy Analyst

Today is World Elephant Day, and we at EIA are celebrating U.S. leadership to combat the elephant poaching epidemic and the steps the United States is taking to ensure our own market doesn’t contribute to the decline of elephants. The timing is critical and the stakes could not be higher—the world’s largest ivory markets need to be shut down to protect elephants.

On July 25th during his trip to Kenya, President Obama announced the release of a proposed rule to mostly ban the domestic trade of ivory in the United States. After months of gaining input from stakeholders, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published the proposed rule on July 29th, which is open for comment for 60 days. The proposed regulations, while not perfect, are a major step forward for the world’s elephants, and another signal to the world that it is time to shut down the corrupt trade in ivory.

Ivory is worth thousands of dollars per kilo in some markets, but the true cost of an ivory statuette or an inlaid gun grip has been borne out in Africa’s savannahs and forests. The declines are shocking: Central Africa’s endangered forest elephant population dropped by 65 percent from 2002 to 2013; elephant numbers in East Africa’s Tanzania dropped by 60 percent to 43,000 from 109,000 in 2009; and Mozambique’s population has fallen by more than half since 2009, down to just over 10,000. Not only is wildlife trafficking devastating for the world’s wildlife, ivory is a cornerstone of a black market trade in wildlife products worth an estimated $8 to $10 billion each year, with much of the profits from these laundered tusks lining the pockets organized criminal gangs and fueling terrorist networks.

The United States remains a major consumer of ivory and our domestic market has provided cover for poachers looking to launder poached and smuggled products. For example, a study in 2008 revealed that approximately one-third of ivory in the United States could be illegal and a 2014 survey of ivory markets in Los Angeles and San Francisco found that more than half of the ivory on display was likely from illegal sources. Online markets host large numbers of dubious ivory items. Determining legal from illegal ivory is extremely difficult, thus so is enforcement.

The proposed rule to the African elephant rule under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act will clamp down on the trade in illegal ivory trinkets by banning most interstate commerce and further restricting commercial exports, with some exceptions including for defined antiques and certain manufactured items containing de minimis quantities of ivory . While meant to accommodate various stakeholders, such as musicians wanting to transfer musical instruments containing ivory, permitted exceptions remain aslOOK small loopholes that can be avenues to launder illegal ivory. As a “near-complete” ban, the proposed rule could use some strengthening to make it as complete as possible.

While EIA and colleagues are pushing for the rule to be strengthened, others are pushing for looser regulations, or more loopholes. There is the possibility that the rule could be weakened by special interest groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has erroneously cast this issue as a matter of gun rights.

EIA will be submitting comments on the proposed rule and encourages others to weigh in, letting FWS know how important and appreciated strong U.S. regulations are to counter the illegal ivory trade, reduce the demand for ivory, and devalue ivory as a commodity. EIA applauds the United States for its leadership and urges all other nations, especially China, Japan, and Thailand, to follow the Unites States’ lead and set firm timelines to close their own domestic ivory markets.

View all Blog Posts

Recent Blog Posts

Room for Improvement: Using DNA Analysis to Address Rhino Horn Trafficking
09/22/2021
Law enforcement officials from around the world have seized illegal supplies of rhino horn at least once a week on average for the past 10 years. The type of seizure ranges widely. It could be a pair of fresh horns confiscated from poachers who just gunned down a rhino inside a national park. Or possibly dozens of horns were discovered cleverly hidden in an air cargo shipment. Sometime it’s just a few grams of powdered horn found in a traveler’s luggage. Maybe a mix of raw and carved horns was seized after a police raid on a trafficker’s home.
Still Waiting for Action: Tokyo's Ivory Trade Assessment
08/11/2021
The reality of the scope and impact of COVID-19 hit home for much of the world when the Tokyo 2020 Games were postponed. A year later and looking far different than ever expected or hoped, the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games finally arrived. As the host of the 2020 Games, Tokyo has come under increased scrutiny for its legal market for elephant ivory. Even as the Games were underway, the influential capital city faced mounting international pressure to close its legal ivory market for good. For World Elephant Day 2021, in between the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, we take a look at where Tokyo stands in doing its part to protect the world's elephants from the threats of ivory trade and poaching. 

Recent Reports

Letter: NGOs Make Recommendations for Tokyo Ivory Market Closure
10/07/2021
EIA and 30 international non-government environmental and conservation organizations sent a letter October 7, 2021, following up on previous appeals to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG). Our organizations continue to urge Tokyo to close the market for elephant ivory and make specific recommendations in the letter to the TMG for moving forward. The letter can be viewed in English and Japanese.
Letter: NGO Appeal to the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games
06/25/2021
: EIA, JTEF, and HSI appeal to the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee President and Governor of Tokyo to take action to prevent illegal trade and export of elephant ivory products

Recent Press Releases

Tokyo Fumbles Short-Term Ivory Trade Action
06/25/2021
Conservation, environmental and animal welfare groups bemoaned measures announced today by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to address Tokyo’s illegal ivory trade as a missed opportunity. Tokyo’s short-term plan is focused only on consumer awareness and falls dramatically short of expectations for substantive action, instead replicating previous failed awareness efforts by Japan’s national government.
Japanese Retailers Willing to Sell Ivory Hanko for Illegal Export
12/17/2020
Investigations of Japanese hanko retailers revealed that many are willing to sell an ivory product knowing that it will be exported internationally despite most being aware that ivory export is illegal.
Follow us @eiaenvironment on twitter for the latest updates!