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U.S. Bans Commercial Trade of Ivory

February 11th, 2014

On February 11, the United States announced a ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory, prohibiting the import, export, or resale within the United States of elephant ivory “except in a very limited number of circumstances.”

The new ban will:

• Prohibit commercial import of African elephant ivory: All commercial imports of African elephant ivory, including antiques, will be prohibited.

• Prohibit commercial export of elephant ivory: All commercial exports will be prohibited, except for bona fide antiques, certain noncommercial items, and in exceptional circumstances permitted under the Endangered Species Act.

• Significantly restrict domestic resale of elephant ivory: The Task Force of Wildlife Trafficking will finalize a proposed rule that will reaffirm and clarify that sales across state lines are prohibited, except for bona fide antiques, and will prohibit sales within a state unless the seller can demonstrate an item was lawfully imported prior to 1990 for African elephants and 1975 for Asian elephants or under an exemption document.

• Clarify the definition of “antique”: To qualify as an antique, an item must be more than 100 years old and meet other requirements under the Endangered Species Act. The onus will now fall on the importer, exporter, or seller to demonstrate that an item meets these criteria.

• Restore Endangered Species Act protection for African elephants: The United States will revoke a previous Fish and Wildlife Service special rule that had relaxed Endangered Species Act restrictions on African elephant ivory trade.

The United States also announced its “National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.” It establishes guiding principles for efforts to stem illegal trade in wildlife and sets three strategic priorities: strengthening domestic and global enforcement; reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife at home and abroad; and strengthening partnerships with international partners, local communities, non-governmental organizations, private industry, and others to combat illegal wildlife poaching and trade.


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