This is a guest post by Allen Grane, research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program.
At the end of May the Chinese government announced that following a one year ban on ivory imports, it will “strictly control ivory processing and trade until the commercial processing and sale of ivory and its products are eventually halted.” If the Chinese are able to follow through, this could be one of the most important actions taken to end the illicit trade of Ivory that is contributing to the decimation of elephant populations in Africa (China is the largest market for elephant ivory).
However, as the Chinese point out, if the ivory trade is to end, other governments must commit to bans as well. As the United States is the world’s second largest market for ivory, it would be an equally important move if the U.S. government were to enact a ban on the trade of elephant ivory.
It seems that this may at least be occurring at the state level. On August 2014, the New Jersey State government announced a complete ban on the sale and import of ivory (including rhinoceros horn). It was the first state to do so. Previously, New York passed legislation to limit the sale of ivory in the state (certain items viewed as ‘antiques’ are exempt). These are currently the only states with legislation restricting the trade. However, since New Jersey’s ban was announced ten more states have submitted bills to their legislature in order to restrict the trade of ivory.
There have also been moves by the U.S. federal government to restrict the trade. As part of President Obama’s National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, the Fish and Wildlife Service has pushed for a near ban on the ivory trade. After recent reports that Mozambique and Tanzania have respectively lost 48 and 60 percent of their elephant populations due to poaching over the last five years, it would seem that now is the time for the U.S. federal government to clamp down on the ivory trade.