The California State Assembly passed a bill this week that would close a loophole that allows older ivory, pre-1977, to be imported, bought and sold.
The bill, which passed 53-12 and now heads to the California Senate, would prohibit a person from purchasing, selling, offering to sell, or importing with intent to sell elephant ivory or rhinoceros horn. The only exceptions would be for very limited scientific or educational purposes.
“AB 96 is a critical tool to close the gaping loophole in California’s decades-old ivory ban,” Iris Ho, program manager for Humane Society International, said in a statement.
Punishments for those that violate the law would range from 30 days in jail and a $10,000 fine for a first offense involving small amounts to more than one year in jail and a $40,000 fine.
Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego, introduced the bill in January. “The slaughter of elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns is as senseless as it is cruel,” she said at the time.
In a report commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council, author Daniel Stiles found that of more than 1,250 ivory items offered for sale by 107 vendors in LA and San Francisco, approximately 90 percent of the ivory for sale in LA and 80 percent in San Francisco was likely illegal. In addition, the report concluded that the proportion of likely illegal ivory in California has approximately doubled from 25 percent in 2006 to 50 percent in 2014.
Aside from California, China has recently made moves to combat illegal ivory trading. At an event in Beijing where officials publicly destroyed 662 kilograms of confiscated ivory, Zhao Shucong, head of China’s State Forestry Administration, said that China would “strictly control ivory processing and trade until commercial processing and the sale of ivory and its products are eventually halted.”
The move to pass California’s AB 96 comes amidst disturbing news of the state of elephants in Africa. Tanzania reported census results this week finding that approximately 60 percent of its elephants, around 65,000, had been lost most likely to poachers in the last five years. Last week, Mozambique reported a similar trend — poachers have killed 48 percent of its elephants since 2009.