By Ramona Young-Grindle, Courthouse News Service
WASHINGTON (CN) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it has finalized a new rule (pdf) to virtually stop all domestic trade in ivory to address unparalleled elephant poaching. Noting that an estimated 100,000 elephants, one every 15 minutes, were killed for their ivory in a recent three year period, the agency said its new rule aims to help federal agents intercept black market shipments and catch traffickers.
Traffickers have exploited previous laws due to the difficulty of distinguishing illegal ivory from legal ivory once it hits the market, the agency said. With certain very limited exceptions, the new rule will prohibit domestic commerce in ivory from African elephants. The exceptions encompass antiques and uses of small amounts of ivory, less than 200 grams, in musical instruments, furniture and firearms.
“Since we proposed this rule in 2015, we received more than 1.3 million comments from the public, demonstrating that Americans care deeply about elephants and overwhelmingly support African elephant conservation,” FWS Director Dan Ashe said. “Our actions close a major avenue to wildlife traffickers by removing the cover that legal ivory trade provides to the illegal trade. We listened carefully to the legitimate concerns raised by various stakeholder groups and, as a result, are allowing commonsense, narrow exceptions for musicians, musical instrument makers and dealers, gun owners and others to trade items that have minimal amounts of ivory and satisfy other conditions. These items are not drivers of elephant poaching and do not…