Uncle Sam Bans African Ivory Trade. Again. Still. More.

“The slaughter of the dwindling elephant herds in Africa grows worse by the year,” the New York Times opines, “as organized criminals get rich from selling elephant tusks in lucrative black markets around the world, where a pound of ivory can fetch $1,500. African elephants, whose numbers have been reduced in less than a century from several million to an estimated 500,000, are being killed at a rate of 30,000 to 35,000 a year.” I know! Let’s ban ivory! ‘Cause it’s not banned enough. “Last week, the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will ban the trade in elephant ivory within the United States by prohibiting all imports and — with very narrow exemptions — exports and resales by auction houses and other dealers.” That sentence doesn’t quite capture the full extent of the regulatory change. Try this from the Interior Department’s own website . . .

The Service will:

  • Prohibit Commercial Import of African Elephant Ivory: All commercial imports of African elephant ivory, including antiques, will be prohibited.
  • Prohibit Commercial Export of Elephant Ivory: All commercial exports will be prohibited, except for bona fide antiques, certain noncommercial items, and in exceptional circumstances permitted under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Significantly Restrict Domestic Resale of Elephant Ivory: We will finalize a proposed rule that will reaffirm and clarify that sales across state lines are prohibited, except for bona fide antiques, and will prohibit sales within a state unless the seller can demonstrate an item was lawfully imported prior to 1990 for African elephants and 1975 for Asian elephants, or under an exemption document.
  • Clarify the Definition of “Antique”: To qualify as an antique, an item must be more than 100 years old and meet other requirements under the Endangered Species Act. The onus will now fall on the importer, exporter, or seller to demonstrate that an item meets these criteria.
  • Restore Endangered Species Act Protection for African Elephants: We will revoke a previous Fish and Wildlife Service special rule that had relaxed Endangered Species Act restrictions on African elephant ivory trade.
  • Support Limited Sport-hunting of African Elephants: We will limit the number of African elephant sport-hunted trophies that an individual can import to two per hunter per year.

I’ve got issues with all this. First, will ANY of these changes help save African elephants from poachers’ guns? Current laws on imported or exported ivory are plenty damn strict and they’ve done sweet FA to stop the killing. I know, I know: if a rule saves one elephant . . . Yes, well, the point isn’t to save one elephant. It’s to save elephants in general.

Like all animals, elephants are a natural resource. Their survival depends on human stewardship. Legal hunting would be lucrative for all concerned. It would give corrupt government officials, professional hunters and locals a cash incentive to protect pachyderms. The more money elephants make for their stewards the more zealous those protectors will be.

Given this equation, the Service’s decision to limit legal sport-hunted elephant trophies to two-a-year per hunter seems both self-self-defeating and churlish. And am I the only one who thinks that banning ivory sales across state lines sets a dangerous precedent? It sounds crazy, but imagine getting pulled over by a Department of Fish and Wildlife Service agent and asked to produce a receipt for your ivory-handled revolver. They might accue you of transporting it across state lines for the purpose of sale. If so . . .

“The onus will now fall on the importer, exporter, or seller to demonstrate that an item meets these criteria (that an antique elephant ivory item is over 100 years old).” While I love me some Ellies I love the “innocent until proven guilty” principle underlying our criminal justice system more. I’m not real comfortable with this bit either . . .

The National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking was developed by an interagency Presidential Task Force, representing agencies from across the federal government, and with significant input from an Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking that includes representation from the private sector, former government officials, non-governmental organizations and other experts on wildlife trade. The Task Force was formed following the President’s July 2013 Executive Order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking. The aim of the Executive Order and the Task Force is to enhance and coordinate U.S. efforts to address the significant impacts to wildlife caused by this growing threat.

Aside from Constitutional concerns about presidential power (with or without “significant input” from citizens), haven’t we learned anything from Prohibition I and II (a.k.a., The War on Drugs)? Banning things does nothing to stop them from being created, bought and sold – even if it makes us feel better. The best way to save the elephants is to shoot them. Legally.


  1. avatar JaredFromTampa says:

    So even if I wanted to (and I don’t) my 1945 Steinway cannot be sold across state lines because it has ivory keys? What exactly does that do to save elephants?

    1. avatar Hal J. says:

      What exactly does that do to save elephants?

      Nothing whatsoever. What it does do is make leftists feel good.

      Which is the whole point.

      1. avatar mike w says:

        In theory, it affects demand, and thus supply.

        Actually, by claiming to initiate a ban, they miss the opportunity to truly be leftist. They could have said we are reaffirming what the world agreed upon decades ago. Mentioned the UN, world working together, sing the praise of Tarvu, etc.

      2. avatar 16V says:

        This is merely an empty gesture, we aren’t in any measurable way the consumers of ‘illicit’ ivory. Wanna stop the poaching of elephants and rhinos for their tusks? Nuke China, or at least quit sending them any money by moving the means of production back to the West. That’s it. The problem is 100% driven by China and the short-term greed of some Westerners that gave them an economy where they could buy something besides rice.

        From elephants, to rhinos, to any shark with a fin worth souping, the Chinese will have them all hunted to extinction in the next 2 decades. At most optimistic. By the time China gets to some sort of even tacit cultural acceptance that just because the West ran roughshod over the planet before (sorta kinda) waking up to it not being a good idea, they don’t get to do it too? The oceans will be completely stripped, and the jungles completely bereft of large game.

        1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          You forgot bear gall bladders and tiger penises.

          I complete agree with your perspective, and it is one of the many reasons why I’m now wholly against “free trade.” Especially with communists.

        2. avatar 16V says:

          Egads, I forgot not only tiger penis bone, but fresh tiger penis in meaty form. The monied Chinese do ascribe more benefits to eating penis than the average resident of The Castro…

    2. avatar Steve D. says:

      You can thank forgers for that clause – they disguise ivory from recently killed elephants as antiques. It’s happening on a massive scale, so the only way to stop the antique ivory forgers is to require proof of genuine antiquity … no proof, no sale!

  2. avatar ropingdown says:

    You simply have to feel for the poor hunter who’s been bringing back four or five ellies a year, at an all in cost of ca. $200,000. What’s a guy to do? Have his wife shoot two? I suppose.

    And suddenly (if the regs enter force) I have an ivory gambling dice set given to me in 1966 1913 by a dear aunt which can’t be sold by the family if I get trampled by an elephant? Well now the set’s definitely an heirloom.

    I recently came to realize that Lady Liberty, down on her luck, has become a full-time nanny.

  3. avatar Frank Masotti says:

    First off, that video is messed up. Second ivory is already banned. It’s like the government banning cocaine again.

    1. avatar Bill says:

      Well now, I’m gonna have to ask you why you feel that video is ‘messed up’.

    2. avatar Evan HB says:

      If the ban doesn’t give you the results you want. You just ban it harder.


  4. avatar TTACer says:

    I wonder why cows, pigs, and chickens are not endangered even though we eat so many of them.

    1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      Domesticated breeding…

      Kind of like how people living off the system have tons of kids, when you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to get your next meal, it leaves way more time for breeding.

      1. avatar JR says:

        See also r/K Selection Theory.

        1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          Agreed, that’s a given.

        2. avatar Rocky Thompson says:

          r/k selection theory. Man me back to my Ecotheory class. Many of the concepts learned there are so applicable elswhere.

    2. avatar peirsonb says:

      Cows would live a lot longer if they weren’t made of leather and delicious steak….

    3. avatar nnjj says:

      To TRULY save elephants, we should introduce them to the food supply. As long as we’re eating chickens and cows, they’ll never go extinct.

      1. avatar Aaron says:

        dammit, you beat me to it. I said something similar down below.

      2. avatar winda says:

        Not really working so well for tuna and sturgeon, is it?

    4. avatar DavidT says:

      A theory my son came up with to save any endangered species: find a commercial use for the animal. If it has commercial use people will breed them, artificially if necessary (pandas are to lazy to breed at times, leading to their declining numbers (WTH, too lazy for sex? how did they survive this long?)), and make money from them.

    5. avatar Aaron says:

      the truly fantastic thing is, the more cows and chickens we eat, the more cows and chickens there are!

      I wonder if elephants can be made into fast-food burgers….

    6. avatar Steve D. says:

      Because they’re shoved into tiny boxes, pumped full of hormones/antibiotics and cruelly treated so they can be served on a plate. If elephants tasted good the same would be done to them.

      No, I’m not vegan – I just buy humanely treated or free-range animal meat.

  5. avatar Michael B. says:

    Resale of Elephant Ivory: We will finalize a proposed rule that will reaffirm and clarify that sales across state lines are prohibited, except for bona fide antiques, and will prohibit sales within a state unless the seller can demonstrate an item was lawfully imported prior to 1990 for African elephants and 1975 for Asian elephants, or under an exemption document.

    How do they have the power to do this or enforce it?

    Aside from a platoon of unaccountable badge-wearing gangsters at their disposal, I mean.

    1. avatar peirsonb says:

      They do have the authority to regulate (I’m not convinced “regulate” means “prohibit”) interstate commerce. So, technically, they have the power to do this.

      As far as enforcing it? I have a better chance of Dave Dombrowski signing a decent bullpen. When it comes to outright prohibitions like this, the only way it can really be enforced is to stop every single vehicle crossing state lines. They might be smuggling ivory.

      1. avatar Michael B. says:

        Within a state = intrastate
        Crossing state lines = interstate

        1. avatar peirsonb says:

          I stand corrected. I got hung up on across state lines, missing the within a state part.

        2. avatar Michael B. says:

          No problem. In any case, it was more of a rhetorical question since I know this falls under the government’s FYTW power.

      2. avatar Leadbelly says:

        It can be enforced for Internet sales, I imagine. In my field of interest what this will do is lock all of the top end vintage, pre (roughly) 1920 guitars, banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, and the like in place. The market for this sort of quality (and price!) is too small and dispersed for in-state sales to support. The final outcome for a lot of antiques is going to depend on what constitutes “proof of age”. If the Trade in Endangered Species law is any guide, enforcement will be selective, arbitrary, and capricious. Stories of politically undesirable rock bands having all of their instruments confiscated at national borders are common.

    2. avatar Nigil says:

      Well technically they don’t, but just because something is unconstitutional doesn’t mean they won’t try. How can there be a federal law against growing, owning, and ingesting (without ever selling) a plant or plant derivative? Pot, coke, opium, etc are all illegal on the federal level. They can only do it becayse we let them.

  6. avatar tdiinva says:

    I believe in the whole Constitution, not just the parts I like. Whether it makes any sense or not in this case the Federal government was given the sole power to regulate interstate commerce. This power can be used wisely or foolishly but it is a legitimate exercise of federal authority.

    1. avatar Peter says:

      “regulate” doesn’t mean complete control over

      1. avatar tdiinva says:

        Wrong. Regulation implies the power to control and the power control means the power to prohibit.

    2. avatar peirsonb says:

      “regulate” != “prohibit”

    3. avatar Michael B. says:

      and will prohibit sales within a state unless the seller can demonstrate an item was lawfully imported prior to 1990 for African elephants and 1975 for Asian elephants, or under an exemption document.

      This falls under the definition of “intrastate,” so unless you accept the progressive idea that everything counts as interstate commerce, they do not have the legitimate power to do this.

    4. avatar ropingdown says:

      I assume there will soon be a Texas Elephants Corporation. Ivory grown in Texas for Texans.

      1. avatar Michael B. says:

        Well, you see, since oxygen molecules cross state lines and will come into contact with those elephants..it’s interstate commerce!

  7. avatar John A. Smith says:

    I don’t know the source for that video, but damned if I can’t help but instantly dislike the “hunter.” I just don’t get the thrill. Pay a PH to guide you to the spot, pay him to tell you how to make the shot and set up the sticks, make the shot (with him and a couple others backing you up), and then hide while the rest of the elephants run away. Your skill isn’t being tested. You aren’t being tested physically. You aren’t going to eat it. You aren’t going to take anything home but a video and a picture. I’m baffled.

    And then the comments about seeing the elephant? No, buddy, you haven’t seen the elephant. If you’d seen the elephant it’s very unlikely you’d find anything exciting about the experience you just paid for.

    1. avatar Hal J. says:

      I don’t know the source for that video, but damned if I can’t help but instantly dislike the “hunter.”

      Lots of people do things that make me dislike them, but that does not in and of itself mean that such activities should be restricted in any way. If someone wants to spend tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of killing of elephant….meh, it’s their money.

      1. avatar John A. Smith says:

        No doubt. But taking wild game necessarily invokes a tragedy of the commons…however much that is tailed back by the price. Simply because someone has the ability and desire to spend tens of thousands of dollars to engage in a behavior that tends ultimately to harm the commons can’t justify that harm unless it is offset.

        I actually really liked that story about the hunter from TX who spent a couple hundred grand to buy a black rhino tag…that’s how it should be done. If you want to kill them, a good portion of the money should be spent to breed or support the existing and healthy population.

        1. avatar Hal J. says:

          Simply because someone has the ability and desire to spend tens of thousands of dollars to engage in a behavior that tends ultimately to harm the commons can’t justify that harm unless it is offset.

          Does this argument apply to all game animals, or is there something special about elephants?

        2. avatar John A. Smith says:

          Hal: I’d say any animal, the taking of which constitutes a material impact to the species or environment in which it lives. I pay for each deer tag, knowing that the money for the tax is used to track and monitor the population, administer public reserves, and to fund preserving that resource for future generations. It’s cheap because deer breed like rats — there uncountable millions of the damned things running around.

          Edit to add: And, around here at least, the deer hunting is fantastic because they’ve been so well managed. 30 years ago that wasn’t the case here — the deer population was way, way down because it had been overhunted.

        3. avatar Hal J. says:

          Hal: I’d say any animal, the taking of which constitutes a material impact to the species or environment in which it lives.

          Is there any reason to assume that the killing of the elephant in question didn’t follow all appropriate laws regarding game management?

        4. avatar Jack in MT says:

          Sorry, but I don’t see how trophy hunting is “engag[ing] in a behavior that tends ultimately to harm the commons.”

          Virtually all of the money from African safari hunts is used for conservation and fighting poaching. In the case of a large bull elephant, the trophy fee can be almost $40,000. That kind of cash goes a long way in Africa. Also, that fee is charged as soon as you draw blood regardless of whether the animal is recovered or not, which is why the PHs fired right after the client did. Can you say that about deer tags here in the states? If African countries didn’t have hunters coming in and paying those fees, they basically wouldn’t have any resources to fight poaching, which truly does harm the commons.

          I think the Professional Hunter system is a good one. It may appear a little unsporting, but how else can you ensure compliance with regulations? How else is a person going to be able to fly to another continent for a short time and be able to harvest each of the animals they are looking for? Again, basically you can keep shooting as long as your checkbook holds out, and the more you take the more you pay. It’s in the interest of African nations to encourage legal methods of harvesting animals in order to help them counteract the illegal methods.

          As far as not getting the thrill of hunting elephants, I’m with you on that one, but there are other game animals in Africa I would like to hunt someday.

        5. avatar Cuteandfuzzybunnies says:

          In African countries that prohibit elephant hunting they are threatened. In countries that allow managed hunting( for obscenely high tag prices like 50 grand) they have more elephants than they need.

          This is because the tag prices allow them to pay enough game. Wardens to keep the poachers from killing them all.

      2. avatar Steve D. says:

        Why not expand it to the most dangerous of game … man!

        I would rather see convicts on death row hunted by trophy hunters than innocent animals. They’ve done something to deserve it; will be put to death anyway; welcome to “The Running Man”.

      3. avatar Elizabeth the Last says:

        About 10 percent of all hunters world wide are actually ‘good’ hunters. If the other 90%, especially in ‘the West’, had to feed themselves and their offspring to survive, they wouldn’t make it long enough to dress their first kill. What the fat toad in the video is doing is canned hunting. I don’t care if the can’s in Texas or Africa or Florida, you can ALWAYS count on fat, money grubbing, limp d.cked morons like him to CONTINUE to give the rest of us a bad name and encourage dumb ass laws like this repeat ‘ivory ban’ to do.

        So now all the bones, the ancestor of the living elephants ancestors have been ground to dust. How special. I wonder how the activists would feel about grinding up their ancestors bones to use as mortar? Or, maybe they actually imagine that people, who can’t remember where their car keys are, are going to, in a generation, know which and where the bones of these elephants are?

        “Gee honey, was it THAT Starbucks that was built with those elephant bones or that one?”
        “Don’t know, don’t care, me want coffee.”

        Let’s see, the first ban impacted China’s importation of ivory, from LOTS of endangered species, how much?
        Oh, that’s right. None at all. And, if banning were so effective, why are we banning again, 30+ years later?

        Ya know hipster, um, I’ve actually SEEN the honor and respect that elephants give to their dead ancestors bones, regardless of how they died. And now you and your f.ck minded army of hippy spawn that you are,(thank your helicopter Boomer parents for the first ban, that has achieved next to nothing), have OBLITERATED ALL MEMORY of these elephants ancestors and to powder for construction of buildings, carried away as easily as the memory of your last ball scratch. You worthless, conniving, sellers of junk ‘liberal’ ideals. AND, this all bit GUARANTEES the total extinction of these elephants within YOUR damn lifetimes and I’m glad. You should HAVE to witness what a president like our current one can do when he’s feeling spiteful as his time grows short and he wants to stick it in tje eye of the GOP and their supporters, many of whom he KNOWS are hunters. What hefails to also tell yoi, and yoir skinny jeaned brains can’t understand on your own, is MOST of the ivory in the West was delievered in the hands of the survivors of WW2. Servicemen and women who barely survived with their minds and bodies in tact, who could afford to bring home a little keep sake, BEFORE anyone really knew what was happening in terms of ‘slaughter'(never mind MOST of the ivory is acquired through OTHER THAN ELEPHANT and when animals are already sick and dieing or dead. Awww, didn’t your Reddit buddies tell you that part? You might want to look into how we care for living veterans in our country. Not pretty. But then, ha!, they’re not ELEPHANTS silly!

        My god the hypocrisy…you wouldn’t know ‘value’ if it crawled out of your deluded, cross eyed, flyover-state thinking little pea brained asses screaming. You ONLY APPRECIATE THE PRICES OF THINGS!!!

        Now, back to the issue of grinding up YOUR ancestors bones…hmmm?

        Oh. Right. It’s different?

        Go tell that to the next set of elephants returning year after year to the bones that still lay on the plains, asshats! You’ve got some tasty hypocrisy. At least I think you do. Maybe we should find out? You HAVE been stuffing yourselves full of veggies and fruits and nuts, haven’t you? I had a neighbor who fed his ORGANIC bull that way right up to the slaughter, something he was willing to do HIMSELF. Some of the best steaks I ever ate.

        Keep feeding yourselves and electing politicians who will honor your every snot nosed, inexperienced, ‘animal rights’ screeching grills that you can and BLAME ONLY YOURSELVES, and the needy Boomers you will be caring for, when the bill on your ideology comes due and I am grateful I won’t be hear to see it but will die with a smile on my face knowing YOU WILL.

        Unless, of course, you 3D print all those powdered bones BACK into memory? You can’t, and you won’t.

        All price, no value.

  8. avatar Jacob says:


    Please send all comment regarding TTAG’s editorial stance of style to [email protected].

    1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      This make me want to be nosey and see what he said, like when you walk up to a crowd of people laughing, “what’s so funny, I want to laugh too”, and such.

      1. avatar JaredFromTampa says:

        For real. Every time I see “FLAME DELTED/COMMENT DELETED” I have this urgent curiosity to know what was said that was deserving of deletion.

        1. avatar Ralph says:


          Now you’re gonna stay up all night wondering what I wrote.

          It’s torture.

        2. avatar peirsonb says:

          Dammit Ralph….

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      At least here they don’t delete the whole comment as if it didn’t exist like MDA


  9. avatar peirsonb says:

    The game wardens in Africa tasked with enforcing the anti-poaching laws are not people I envy. Undertrained, underequipped, thrown out in the middle of nowhere and told to put a stop to a crime that the criminals realize is almost universally taboo. The mortality rate on that job is excessively high, last I checked…

    1. avatar RickP says:

      The good thing is that they can pretty much shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to poachers.

  10. avatar neiowa says:

    Interesting in all the ranting about elephant (and similar) poaching fails to start with the ONE central word – CHINA

    1. avatar shawn says:

      China, btw, is buying up Detroit.

      1. avatar peirsonb says:

        So it will come out of bankruptcy less socialist than when it went in?

      2. avatar ropingdown says:

        I remember when Japan was buying up US commercial real-estate. That was a loser.

      3. avatar Ralph says:

        China can have Detroit. And Cleveland, too. No extra charge.

        1. avatar peirsonb says:

          As long as they promise to get the Indians out of the Central….

    2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      Kill a Commie for mommy, well, unless they want to buy our goods, or want to sell us goods, or provide cheap labor to increase the profitability of manufacturing, but other than that, you’re good.

  11. avatar shawn says:

    Then, humans are a natural resourse, too.

    1. avatar Hal J. says:

      Only if you think humans should be treated the same as non-human animals.

      1. Hundreds of thousands of humans are slaughtered every year in this country before they even have a chance to be born, what’s a few elephants compared to that?

      2. avatar int19h says:

        It’s not unreasonable to have some more gradations than just “human” and “non-human”. Some animal species are more developed than others, and we have already been slowly recognizing that by e.g. prohibiting experimentation on apes. Dolphins and elephants might well also fall into the same category, where we don’t grant them human rights, but we do say that some things are still wrong to do to them.

        Personally, I would not object to a complete ban on elephant hunting.

  12. avatar Randy Drescher says:

    A presidential interagency task force creating another federal interagency task force while getting intelligence briefings from a wildlife council whilst under an executive order…?….the stuff of liberal wet dreams. Carlin had a famous gesture for this whole cluster F.

  13. Five shots to bring the monster down, awesome

    1. avatar Clem says:

      Perhaps the first four bounced off the heavy brush he was shooting through. (?)

      1. I wasn’t being sarcastic, I am just glad they brought the thing down, no how many shots. Would sure hate to have that thing charging me as a hunter.

        I wonder where they try to put the round? Right in the brain box, I’d imagine?

  14. avatar Skyler says:

    My cousin makes a living carving scrimshaw. He has a narwhal tusk over his mantle. I doubt this will change his business too much.

  15. avatar Gregolas says:

    “Just when I think government can’t get any stupider or less ignorant of basic economics-they pull me back in!”

  16. avatar Hannibal says:

    “Current laws on imported or exported ivory are plenty damn strict and they’ve done sweet FA to stop the killing.”

    That’s glib,at best. It did plenty of F to slow the killing when it was first introduced. http://www.geographical.co.uk/Magazine/Dossiers/Ivory_Trade_-_November_2006.html

    The problem is the black/grey market in china so old men can try and get their little tusks bigger.

  17. avatar Chris Mallory says:

    Case Knives had announced a couple weeks ago that this ban would make the sale/transfer of their knives with previously grandfathered, preban ivory handles illegal. They were offering remaining stock for sale to try and beat the deadline.

  18. avatar Tyler says:

    I just don’t see the appeal of this kind of hunting…

    1. avatar Steve D. says:

      It’s pure and simple bloodlust!

      They get a thrill out of killing – not for survival or for food, but just to take another life.

  19. avatar Aaron says:

    if you REALLY want to save elephants, start farming them for food. Cows and chickens are in zero danger of going extinct!

    1. Wonder what elephant tastes like?

      1. avatar Aaron says:

        chicken. everything tastes like chicken.

  20. avatar RickP says:

    Well, there will be a whole country, Botswana, filled with un-huntable elephant, so no ivory could possibly come from there. :/ They outlawed elephant hunting starting this year so just watch the habitat destruction expand due to overpopulation. Of course, the anti’s will come up with some other excuse for the population reduction and starving elephants. Plus, now the elephants have no value to the locals so they will be even more likely to poach the pachyderms.

  21. avatar Steve D. says:

    “Their survival depends on human stewardship. Legal hunting would be lucrative for all concerned. It would give corrupt government officials, professional hunters and locals a cash incentive to protect pachyderms. The more money elephants make for their stewards the more zealous those protectors will be.”

    The whole “limited hunting will save them” argument pivots on one thing … that the money coming from limited legal hunts is greater than what the poachers can offer those “corrupt government officials”.

    As soon as you take human greed into account the whole argument falls apart!

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