WASHINGTON (Oct. 1, 2015) – This week, WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) delivered 164,238 comments, organized through the 96 Elephants campaign, to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) calling for the closure of the commercial ivory trade in the United States.
The submission comes at the closure of the 60-day public comment period following the Obama Administration’s release of its proposed rule revision of Section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act. The rule change intends to further limit the domestic trade in ivory by closing loopholes and help guarantee that the U.S. is not contributing to the global wildlife trafficking crisis.
The 4(d) rule change would prohibit most sales of ivory in interstate or foreign commerce (with exemptions for bona fide antiques and certain manufactured items containing de minimis quantities of ivory) and leave in place other import/export and sales restrictions that FWS implemented last year. Importantly, prospective sellers would be required to demonstrate that their ivory items meet the criteria to be granted an exemption. Possession, bequests, or gifting of ivory items would not be regulated under the proposed rule.
WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper, who serves on the President’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, also submitted comments to FWS. His comments read, in part: “The proposed 4(d) rule is a critical part of the Administration’s comprehensive strategy to address wildlife trafficking in general, as well as the elephant poaching crisis, taking strong steps toward closing the U.S. market to illegal ivory and making it more difficult to use the Unites States as a transshipment hub for Asian markets. WCS strongly supports these efforts, and this proposed rule, and we oppose any weakening of its provisions.”
John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Director of the 96 Elephants campaign, said, “Through the 96 Elephants campaign, Americans were galvanized to take action to save African forest elephants from further decline and prevent their extinction. The world can hear loud and clear the hundreds of thousands of voices of those who stand for elephants and ending the domestic ivory trade. A strong ivory ban will help cut demand for ivory products and give these magnificent creatures a fighting chance.”
Last week, during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington, the U.S. and China issued a joint commitment to ending domestic ivory trade, an important step that demonstrates how U.S. action on this issue can lead the world to follow suit. China is the world’s largest consumer of ivory.
Over the past 30 years, Africa’s elephant population has been reduced from around 1.2 million to about 420,000. Scientists are in agreement that the illegal killing of elephants for their ivory is a primary cause of these declines. A recent study found that 100,000 African elephants were killed between 2010-2012 alone. Central Africa’s elephants are being poached at a shocking and unsustainable rate of 9 percent per year. This is based on a new analysis indicating that between 2002 and 2013, 65 percent of the region’s forest elephants – 200,000 individuals – were killed. One elephant is poached for ivory every fifteen minutes, or 96 every day.
While the international commercial trade in African elephant ivory has been banned since 1990, individual countries, including the U.S., have maintained varying levels of legal domestic ivory trade. Studies of trade in elephant ivory indicate that legal markets provide a cover for trade in illegal products and render enforcement extremely difficult. This is the case in the U.S. ivory market – one of the largest in the world – where traffickers exploit regulatory loopholes in order to misrepresent illegal ivory as legal ivory. Given the scale of the current elephant poaching crisis across Africa, the U.S. must eliminate its parallel legal and illegal markets and the resulting opportunities for laundering illegal ivory.
Elephants are iconic, awe-inspiring animals and perform critical ecological roles in the forests and savannahs they inhabit. Yet, unless this poaching trend is reversed, African elephants will be wiped out across large areas of their range within our lifetime.
WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.
96 Elephants WCS is leading global efforts to save Africa’s elephants and end the current poaching and ivory trafficking crisis. In 2013, WCS launched its 96 Elephants campaign to bring together world citizens, partners, thought leaders, and change makers to leverage collective influence to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand. The campaign, which has partners from around the world including 125 U.S. zoos, focuses on: securing effective moratoria on sales of ivory; bolstering elephant protection; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis. www.96elephants.org