Thursday, January 15, 2015

Study Shows California's Illegal Ivory Sale has Increased in Eight Years

A Maasai boy near a skeleton of an elephant killed by poachers in Arusha, Tanzania.

A recent study examining the trafficking of Africa's illegal ivory revealed that as much as 90 percent of the ivory analyzed in the markets and stores of Los Angeles was illegal under state law. It also found identical numbers in San Francisco and confirmed that the magnitude of illegal ivory for sale in California has increased in eight years. The study's report, authorized by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), shined light on the illegal importation and sale of African ivory. Despite conspicuous public awareness campaigns and heightened international enforcement, poaching and illicit trafficking of ivory are on the rise with more than 100,000 elephants slaughtered in the last three years, adding to the species' cataclysmic fall. Conservationists are expecting that a new bill before the state legislature will help stop the flow of illegal ivory. The projected bill, written by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, would more closely reflect federal law that prohibits all ivory imports, closing an escape in present state laws that permit the sale of ivory brought into California before 1977. The legislation would also ban the sale, purchase, and possession for sale of basically all elephant ivory and rhino horns. However, it would allow some exceptions for educational or scientific purposes or if ivory is part of a musical instrument. Named AB 96, Ms. Atkins attached the number 96 to the bill to indicate that it is the number of elephants killed in Africa each day. The report's author, Daniel Stiles, examined more than 100 dealers in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area in the months of March and April and analyzed more than 1,250 items. He estimated that roughly 50 percent of ivory for sale in California is illegal. The study confirmed that approximately 90 percent of ivory for sale in Los Angeles was illegal under state law and roughly 60 percent was illegal under federal law. The report hypothesized that customers are confused about which ivory is illegal and which ivory pieces, found in some antique items, for example, are legal. Mr. Stifles stated that customers assume that if ivory is for sale, it must be legal. Since 1989, the federal law has prohibited the sale of African ivory, but that law has also been strengthened and no longer permits the importation of antiques. According to Craig Hoover, chief of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service's International Affairs Wildlife Trade and Conservation Branch, federal enforcement attention has moved to ivory dealers, demanding them confirm the legality of each item. Conservationists also expect the stronger state and federal laws will also diminish the number of illicit ivory making its way to California markets.

It is highly essential that tougher state and federal laws be put into effect in this ongoing war against the poaching of Africa's elephants and the illegal trade of ivory. Increased enforcement is not the only solution to deal with this catastrophe. Decreasing the demand of ivory is a more effective way of controlling illegal imports of ivory. At the same time, high-profile public awareness campaigns should not only be carried out in countries like China or anywhere else where the demand for ivory remains high, but also in Africa where the poaching of elephants and rhinos has been occurring and continues to occur. The threat of poaching does not only affect the population of elephants and rhinos, but also harms the tourism industry and socio-economic growth in Africa. Furthermore, the money made from dealing elephant ivory and rhino horns also funds crimes against people such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, weapons trafficking, and terrorism. Therefore, it is essential to combat the illegal trade of ivory and rhino horns by both diplomatic and military means.

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