Obama announces more restrictions on sale of ivory from African elephants

In Kenya, President Obama said the US will ban trade of elephant ivory across state lines. Despite existing regulations, the US remains the second-largest market for ivory, behind China. 

Ben Curtis/AP
In his first visit to Kenya as president, Obama told reporters he is planning to crackdown on ivory trafficking to protect the country’s wildlife from poachers.

President Obama announced Saturday new measures that would eliminate the market for illegal ivory in the US.

“We’re proposing a new rule that bans the sale of virtually all ivory across state lines,” Obama said at a joint press conference in Nairobi, with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The proposal will prohibit interstate commerce in ivory, with the exception of specific and limited uses for musical instruments, furniture pieces, and firearms that contain less than 200 grams of the white material, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the US Department of the Interior, said in a statement.

The proposed rule, when implemented would result in a near total ban on the ivory trade, which have long been targeted by poachers for the US and Asian markets. In February 2014, the US announced 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. 

Time.com reports that existing US ivory regulations mostly concern the import and export of the material from the country, while allowing some legal trade of the material between states.

Kenya is one of the countries in Africa that has seen its elephant population decline from 167,000 in the 1970s to about 35,000.

The latest US response to this growing poaching crisis – one that is rapidly pushing populations of African elephants, rhinos and other species to the brink of extinction – drew praise from some animal conservationists.

“We’ve been calling for U.S. leadership to combat the illicit trade in ivory, and we are glad that the president is using the bully pulpit to draw attention to this crisis and to take a critical step toward strengthening US policy,” Humane Society of the United States CEO and President Wayne Pacelle wrote in a blog.

“According to one estimate, the United States is the world’s second-largest market for ivory product sales, behind China, and we cannot claim the mantle of leadership on this issue without taking bold action commensurate with the crisis that’s unfolded,” Pacelle wrote.

It is estimated that 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory between 2010 and 2012, an average of approximately one every 15 minutes.

In June, the US government destroyed more than one ton of illegal ivory before crowds in New York’s Times Square, in a move intended to show its commitment on the crackdown of the illegal trade. China recently made an announcement that it, too, would take action to end ivory trade, according to the Washington Post.

The proposed US rule will be published on July 29 and open for public comment for 60 days.

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