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Press release [via]

[Editor’s note: IMHO the best way to protect elephants is to allow legal hunting, with ivory available for commercial sale.]

In a significant move to protect one of the world’s most cherished species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today completed a rulemaking process under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to institute a near-total ban on the domestic commercial trade of African elephant ivory. The rule, which fulfills restrictions outlined under President Obama’s 2013 Executive Order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking, substantially limits imports, exports and sales of African elephant ivory across state lines . . .

The rule is the latest of several actions implemented by the Service aimed at reducing the opportunities for wildlife traffickers to trade illegal ivory under the guise of a legal product.

“Today’s bold action underscores the United States’ leadership and commitment to ending the scourge of elephant poaching and the tragic impact it’s having on wild populations,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who serves as co-chair of the President’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking. “We hope other nations will act quickly and decisively to stop the flow of blood ivory by implementing similar regulations, which are crucial to ensuring our grandchildren and their children know these iconic species.”

Wildlife trafficking reduces the economic, social and environmental benefits of wildlife while generating billions of dollars for organized criminal enterprises, contributing to an illegal economy, fueling instability and undermining security.

The final rule prohibits most commerce in ivory but makes specific, limited exceptions for certain pre-existing manufactured items — such as musical instruments, furniture pieces and firearms — that contain less than 200 grams of ivory and meet other specific criteria. Antiques, as defined under the ESA, are also exempt from the act’s prohibitions.

This rule is limited to African elephant ivory and does not further regulate ivory derived from other species, such as walrus, whale and mammoth.

“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,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Our actions close a major avenue to wildlife traffickers by removing the cover that legal ivory trade provides to the illegal trade. We still have much to do to save this species, but today is a good day for the African elephant.”

Federal law enforcement investigations demonstrate that wildlife traffickers have exploited prior regulations allowing for legal trade in ivory. Under current laws, once illegal ivory enters the market, it becomes nearly impossible to distinguish from legal ivory, limiting the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts to intercept black market shipments and catch traffickers.

The new rule will provide federal agents with clearer lines of demarcation to identify illegal ivory. Desire for elephant ivory, mostly in Asia, is so great that it grossly outstrips the legal supply and creates a void in the marketplace that ivory traffickers are eager to fill. Perpetuating legal trade only serves to stimulate this consumer demand and further threaten wild elephant populations.

During a recent three-year period, an estimated 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory, an average of approximately one every 15 minutes, and poaching continues at an alarming rate. The carcasses of illegally killed elephants now litter some of Africa’s premiere parks. Elephants are under threat even in areas that were once thought to be safe havens.

During the last year, the Service consulted extensively with groups that will be impacted by the new trade controls for ivory. The rule provides detailed guidance on the transportation and trade in limited types of ivory products that are still allowed. The Service will provide additional implementation guidance on the rule before it goes into effect July 6, 2016, 30 days following publication in the Federal Register.

“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,” said Ashe. “These items are not drivers of elephant poaching and do not provide cover for traffickers.”

This rule is the latest in a suite of actions taken by the Administration to combat wildlife trafficking including: Securing corporate commitments to stem trafficking through the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance; developing international partnerships with range and demand countries; law enforcement operations such as Operation Crash; and drafting of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, which is currently under public and congressional review and includes the strongest international commitments to fight the illegal trade in endangered species of any trade agreement in history.

The final rule will publish in the Federal Register June 6, 2016, at which time it will be available at under docket no. FWS–HQ–IA–2013–0091. For more information on the final rule, please see

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.

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  1. In short, another pointless regulation from the Obama administration which does nothing except create hardship for the law abiding, adds additional layers of red tape, and creates job security for the federal welfare class. So in other words, just another day ending in “y”.

  2. Dumb.

    We need more ivory. To make that happen, we need more elephants. This is an incentive to have African locals protect their natural ivory resource and breed as many elephants as possible. you want the price of ivory reasonably low. It gives the incentive to breed as many elephants as possible for a lucrative harvest. If the price is too high, people (poachers) are more willing to do a smash and grab on elephant tusks, which is what we don’t want.

    • Can’t tell if serious? Elephants are not a species you can “farm” for their products in an effective manner. They take far too long to breed and mature, require extensive individual effort and labor to tame, not to mention most places they live, there simply are neither the controls nor funds in place to manage large numbers of big animals in that way. Even if you’re just talking about taking ivory from dead wild animals, managing that resource is simply beyond the ability of most of these places, and there’s too much incentive for people looking for a quick buck to grab a couple pals and a couple AK’s and just massacre a herd for a quick buck.

      TL;DR Elephant breeding for massed harvesting of ivory just isnt something that can be effectively managed and increased given their biology and the realities of the places they naturally live.

      • No but by allowing them to be legally harvested by hunters who will actually pay out some to the landowner it gives them an incentive to allow them on their land and increase their ranges while also providing the elephants with some protection from poachers

        • The problem is that the Poachers are usually both more numerous and better armed than landowners (or *are* the Landowners), and, more to the point, a lot, if not most, of the poaching occurs in ostensibly protected wildlife habitats that there simply is no way to adequately protect with the resources these places have, and the Elephant populations are so low that legal hunting is not sustainably viable, nor would it sufficiently satisfy market demand.

          Legal hunting also runs into the issue that we see with Lions and similar creatures, where caged hunts of captured or captive bred animals (before they themselves have chances to reproduce) become prioritized over population recovery and just feed the problem even more.

          If these were white tailed deer or hogs, I’d say by all means have at it, but legal hunting is many decades off from being a viable option, assuming population recovery begins today.

          The big thing that needs addressing is Asian market demand, most likely through intensive social conditioning like they’ve done with Shark Fin Soup. Quash that demand by making it socially undesirable and you’ve removed the overwhelmingly vast majority of demand. Alas, thats not something this legislation addresses (or is even capable of). It’s not a US issue, it’s an issue of insufficient control capabilities in Africa and insane demand in Asia.

      • Well Muih, you better find a way, because the market is the only thing that’s going to save them now. African countries are notorious for following the law right? Especially when animals are walking around carrying valuable jewelry? You need to devalue that jewelry and you do that with supply and demand. If the law could curb demand, then cocaine wouldn’t cost $100 a gram right?

        We are all open to your solution.

        • No kidding.

          Lemme see,

          Real world option #1. Rich hunter pays $50,000 to legally hunt an elephant. Money goes to local economy, protection and conservation. The ivory gets used, as well as the rest of the elephant.

          Real world option #2. We ban hunting and ivory. Poaching continues apace. The black market moves unhindered. There is no financial incentive to risk your life protecting an elephant. Elephants are slaughtered, the ivory harvested, and the rest of the beautiful animal rots in the savannah.

          Anybody got an option #3? I’m all ears.

        • Option #3 You allow limited legal hunting of elephants and the selling of legally obtained ivory. However, poachers continue to kill elephants because ivory is still a valuable commodity and likely always will be.

      • The law will not curb poaching in Africa, Moe. Another solution must be found. But thanks for the insult instead of providing your brilliant solution.

      • Anyways, the point of my post was – if demand is high and supply is low, the price will be high, and these are ideal conditions for poaching to occur. The only way to curb this is to increase supply. Obviously there is no easy way to do this currently.

        In all likelihood, it is probably easier to modernize Africa and lift them out of third world conditions (so they won’t poach elephants for a quick buck) than to try to stop them from shooting elephants.

  3. Ok what is the deal with the “officer” and backwards too small hat? That a guy or a chick and is the best the feds have to put on display? All jackbooted thugs in the field?

    • That guy on the right looks like Mike Holmes from HGTV. Is he moonlighting? HGTV not paying the bills?

  4. “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service”

    Hang on a minute, these elephants are now US citizens?

    Is the job of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now to protect all of the worlds animals? Maybe they should shut up and keep to their own business.

    • Except it’s a bit like seeing the 18-wheeler you just passed in the rearview, and having another approaching head-on with nowhere to go….. along with it being fully intent on running you down.

      • Well, I’ve donated money to Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Ted Cruz. Next up is the Trump campaign – cause I’m sure as he’ll not giving money to Bernie or Hillary.

  5. Meanwhile, smugglers, poachers and all others in the illegal ivory game remain mostly unaffected. Maybe its because criminals flat out DGAF how much illegalegaler illegal practices are made.

  6. Translation: “We believe we can reduce illegal behavior by banning related legal behaviors”
    SOS… Same old story….now applied to ivory.

  7. The IPA (ivory poachers association) applauds this new common sense regulation. Profits are going to triple overnight

  8. One vivid memory I have is a very old woman I sold a medical alarm to-“Fallen and I can’t get up!” circa1990(before I became an antique dealer). She had a stunning collection of huge carved ancient Chinese elephant tusks. That and a lot of antiques-all in a hot 3rd floor apartment in Chicago. Acquired in China long ago. Dunno’ what happened to the tusks but several years later I saw some of her stuff in a local auction. Anywho I asked her neighbor how it is she lives alone with all this priceless stuff and she replied “I have these dogs”. Well duh-nobody stopped ME. Yeah I encounter ivory items often from long dead critters. The burning of millions of $ of already dead elephant and rhino parts is insane…yeah hunting by rich Americans is key to saving ’em.

  9. How do they expect US laws to change the behavior of foreign buyers, like the Chinese, who constitute most of the market? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    • With 300MM people, the US did a pretty good job in the past of stripping the planet

      From elephant tusks, to shark fins, tiger penises, old growth exotic hardwoods, to well, everything else with over 1B people, the rich of China will finish the job.

      What we do as Americans is rather irrelevant these days, except in the US. We can’t bring back fish stocks, endangered specie, or anything else on our own anymore. China and especially rich Chinese do as they please.

      • Well there’s one good thing that will come from this. The laws will be on the books long after the last elephant is gone. /sarc/

  10. If anything this move just increases the incentive for poaching, and decreases what little incentive the local population had to protect their wildlife from poachers. No rich Americans paying tens of thousands of dollars to hunt = locals who will do something other than protect the animals that were formerly their livelihood. Plus the illicit markets in Eastern Europe and Asia are laughing right now at what will surely be an increase in ivory headed their way.

  11. What we need to do is declare the testicles of Chinese businessmen an aphrodisiac and ornamental extravagance.

    A few castratos running around Beijing would save many a species. Those assholes are driving plenty to extinction with their perverse appetites.

    Save the elephant/rhino/tiger/vaquita and lord knows what other animal, bomb China.

    • Don’t forget sharks. 70+MM per year just for shark fin soup. Anybody want to bet how long they can keep that up?

      Jeselnik’s Shark Party indeed…

      • Recent studies indicated that most Chinese were completely unaware that shark fin soup was made with shark fins. What the hell they thought it actually was, I don’t know. Maybe they thought it was akin to bird’s nest soup. In any case, the Chinese media in the last five years have made huge pushes to educate the public about what shark fin soup is made of, and demand has lessened.

        I don’t see them doing that for ivory though.

    • China, Japan, both Koreas, Thailand… Nuke ’em all right in a row. The world’ll be much better off.

  12. Because banning the sale of a commodity has never, ever, in American history caused that commodity to be sold illegally, and driven the creation of a criminal enterprise to make, move, and profit from that commodity.

    Also, what is the disposition of Ivory owned by private antique and jewelry dealers? Is their valuable property now worthless to their business? What do you think they will do with that property to recoup their now illicit inventory?

    This is the problem with modern progressives. They want to Do Something about Everything. But they are seemingly (and demonstrably) incapable of thinking beyond step one. They cannot fathom what the broader results of their actions will be. Or they don’t care. Either way, these are the symptoms of a chronic, debilitating social and psychological illness. I sincerely hope, the the good of humanity, that they are treated and cured of this tragic disease.

    • | “Because banning the sale of a commodity has never, ever, in American history caused that commodity to be sold illegally, and driven the creation of a criminal enterprise to make, move, and profit from that commodity.”

      Methinks you’re not just referring to ivory here. Maybe something that goes pewpewpew, too. Or booze.

  13. Another short-sighted solution that ignores market forces and will actually just make the problem worse – Not as bad as the recent huge ivory-burn, but just as counter-productive.

  14. And the quantity allowed for musical instruments is laughably small. That’s not even a single piano key, and they’ve not developed anything that makes better piano keys than ivory.

    • Honest question… what about being ivory makes a piano key “better” than a wood key with a plastic, ivory-like veneer? I know a number of people who play the piano on a fairly frequent basis, several professionally, and I’ve *never* heard any of them remark on the superiority of ivory keys over the more common artificial ones. Maybe I haven’t asked them the right questions, but I’d always been under the impression it was largely a cosmetic thing.

      • Well, even ivory keys were really just veneers. The key itself has always been wood, usually with a lead weight swaged into it at a state gif position to balance it.

        The closest many come to ivory is a porcelain-like key. They don’t have the nice grain pattern of ivory, but they also don’t deteriorate, and can be replaced if damaged.

  15. How about a ban that would actually do something useful? I propose an immediate ban on politicians! Anyone trying to be a politician will immediately be sent to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention and “enhanced” interrogation.

  16. Why the hell don’t we tax the shit out of ivory trading with in the us, and use that money to send some PMCs to whatever shit hole this ivory is coming from to put the fear of God in these lawless savages?

    I have a feeling that it would only take a few skirmishes before the Africans move on to a more lucrative and safe trade…. especially with helicopters involved.

    It does create jobs.
    it allows ivory collectors to continue business.

  17. “Bold action”????
    When I read about things like this, the first thing that pops into my mind is not “Bold” anything….

  18. Whew! My cousin is a scrimshaw artist in Nantucket. I’m glad whale ivory is exempted.

  19. “Perpetuating legal trade only serves to stimulate this consumer demand and further threaten…populations.”

    Where do you think we will see this again?

  20. Tag prices are dropping fast. Just got a flyer on elephant hunting in a few countries. Folks are cancelling hunts.
    This means more poaching.
    Obama can’t do anything to curtail ivory poaching in Southern Africa. What he did is just hasten their demise.

  21. Yeeeesss. (Rubs hands together) Let’s make ivory harder to trade and drive the price up, giving our assets a huge boost, while keeping the African states from being able to make huge ammounts of money by selling ivory from elephant culls that would boost the impoverished financial status of their nations. They are just a bunch of monkeys anyways, the highest wants us to take their land!

  22. Recruit folks to become the “People of the Elephant”. Arm and train them well — to live with the elephants wherever they go.

    Pay them, with bonuses for the bodies of poachers, dead or alive.

    Offer eco-tours to join them for a month — with a big discount if you go armed against the poachers.

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