The Proposed 4(d) Rule on Ivory and How Each of Us Can Help Ensure a Future for Elephants

One of the most important remaining populations of African forest elephants lives in and around Dzanga Bai in the Central African Republic. Photo by Cristián Samper ©WCS

By John Calvelli

When Americans hear that elephants are being poached into extinction for their ivory, there is a tendency to think of it as somebody else’s problem. Those elephants are being killed thousands of miles away in Africa, often benefiting extremist groups, and short of standing guard in the national parks ourselves or financially supporting worthwhile conservation efforts, we believe there is not much we can do. Similarly, we assume that the ivory is on its way to Asia, and it is beyond our means to stop consumers in Asia from buying ivory.

One of the most important remaining populations of African forest elephants lives in and around Dzanga Bai in the Central African Republic. Photo by Cristián Samper ©WCS

Don’t fall into this trap. The elephant crisis is not an ocean away; it is in our cities, at our doorstep, and at our fingertips online. The U.S. is one of the world’s largest ivory consumers and maintains a legal commercial ivory market that serves as cover for smuggled ivory, which is virtually impossible to differentiate from legal ivory without a costly scientific analysis. A comprehensive study in 2008 of more than 650 retail stores in 16 cities in the U.S. and Canada found that of the 24,000 pieces of ivory for sale, as many as one-third were potentially illegal and warranted further testing. A 2015 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that up to 90 percent of ivory for sale in Los Angeles and 80 percent in San Francisco is likely illegal. And a recent analysis by WCS and the International Fund for Animal Welfare found nearly $1.5 million worth of ivory for sale on Craigslist in a one month period on only 28 of their 700 sites. Americans are buying ivory, and that demand puts increased pressure —> Read More

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