WASHINGTON— President Obama announced new regulations today that restrict the trade of ivory over state lines and expand limits on ivory exports. The regulations are part of an ongoing effort to reduce wildlife trade through President Obama’s National Strategy on Wildlife Trafficking issued last year.
Elephants across Africa are being wiped out at a dizzying pace to feed the illegal market for ivory products, and the United States has one of the largest markets for ivory in the world. Prohibiting interstate ivory trade is a much needed step to shrink those domestic markets. The proposed U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulation provides limited exceptions for interstate sales, including pre-existing products that contain 200 grams or less of ivory.
“We’re thrilled the Obama administration has taken this important step to reduce the domestic trade in ivory,” said Tara Easter, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The United States has one of the largest markets for ivory in the world and reducing demand here will go a long way toward saving elephants in Africa.”
The announcement comes on the heels of a Center petition to the Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify African elephants as two species and to increase protections for both by protecting them as “endangered” instead of as merely “threatened”. Fewer than 100,000 forest elephants and 400,000 savannah elephants remain. Genetic studies indicate the two split into separate species at least 2 million years ago, about the same time Asian elephants diverged from mammoths. An endangered listing would provide additional restrictions on the import and export of ivory products, and elevate their statuses for funding conservation efforts.