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US bans elephant ivory to discourage poaching

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: elephants, ivory trade, poaching

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(NaturalNews) As a way to help reduce poaching, the United States government has largely banned the importation of elephant ivory, the administration said in a recent announcement.

According to a statement released by the White House titled "FACT SHEET: National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking & Commercial Ban on Trade in Elephant Ivory," it is no longer permissible to commercially import elephant ivory, and the interstate sale of ivory must consist only of material that is at least a century old and classified as an antique.

"Today we are also announcing a ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory, which will enhance our ability to protect elephants by prohibiting commercial imports, exports and domestic sale of ivory, with a very limited number of exceptions," said the announcement, which was dated Feb. 11. "This ban is the best way to help ensure that U.S. markets do not contribute to the further decline of African elephants in the wild."

White House limiting elephant trophies as well

In addition to the import/export bans, the government said it would also "significantly restrict" the interstate sale of elephant ivory domestically, sharpen the clarification of what constitutes an ivory antique and restore Endangered Species Act protections for African elephants.

"We will limit the number of African elephant sport-hunted trophies that an individual can import to two per hunter per year," the government also said.

Grant T. Harris, the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs, wrote on the White House blog:

The new Strategy establishes 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, NGOs, private industry, and others to combat illegal wildlife poaching and trade.

Harris also said that threats to elephants were escalating and that, because of the added dangers, the bans were necessary.

"Taken together, these actions will help ensure that the United States is not contributing to poaching of elephants and illegal trade in ivory," he said.

In signing off on the new policy, President Obama wrote:

Addressing these challenges requires a U.S. strategy that is proactive, recognizes immediate imperatives, and balances our strengths and expertise to address challenges comprehensively over the long term. This is a global challenge requiring global solutions. So we will work with foreign governments, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to maximize our impacts together. Our efforts will aim to strengthen enforcement, reduce demand, and increase cooperation to address these challenges.

Tens of thousands of elephants and rhinos killed last year

Meanwhile, the Toronto Star reported that a number of governments from around the world have additionally agreed to render current stockpiles of ivory they possess as unusable.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told attendees at a conference addressing the issue in London Feb. 13 that poaching of wildlife was a global criminal enterprise on par with drug, arms and human trafficking.

"We are at the 11th hour to prevent the wildlife trade destroying some of the most extraordinary species in the world, but today I believe we have begun to turn the tide, if we follow up everything that has been agreed," Hague said.

He went on to say that tens of thousands of elephants were killed last year alone, along with more than 1,000 rhinos. In South Africa alone, around 1,000 white rhinos were killed.

About 40 countries attended the conference, which linked poaching to international crime as well as political corruption and even terrorism. A communique signed by attendees said that poaching "fuels a cycle of instability, affecting poverty levels as well as regional and international security."







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