A good day for elephants

With a new regulation, the U.S. has put in place a nearly complete ban on the ivory trade.

Recent estimates show that every 15 minutes, a poacher kills an elephant for its tusks, feeding a demand for ivory in Asia, the U.S. and elsewhere. African elephant populations are less than one-tenth of what they were in the early 20th century.

Up until now, if ivory had been brought into the United States before elephants were listed as endangered, or if documents showed that ivory was from an elephant that died of natural causes, it could be sold. No longer. Wildlife traffickers could exploit these regulations to give legal cover to an illegal trade.

Now, the only exceptions include genuine antique statues or artwork and previously manufactured items made with less than 200 grams of ivory.

“We hope other nations will act quickly and decisively to stop the flow of blood ivory by implementing similar regulations,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

Dan Ashe of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said his office received 1.3 million comments from the public about the new rule, “demonstrating that Americans care deeply about elephants and overwhelmingly support African elephant conservation.”

During a visit to the United States in September, President Xi Jinping of China expressed support for stopping the ivory trade. He and President Obama announced that both countries would take significant and timely steps to enact near-complete bans on ivory sales and would encourage other world leaders to do the same.

Secretary Jewell said the U.S. action is a bold and necessary step to preserve wild elephants for future generations.

“We still have much to do to save this species, but today is a good day for the African elephant,” said Ashe of U.S. Fish and Wildlife.