United States to tighten restrictions on ivory trade

The US will continue to permit the trade in objects more than 100 years old. [Théo/Flickr]

The United States will impose tough restrictions on the trade in ivory from African elephants, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Thursday (2 June). Notable exceptions include antiques and musical instruments. EURACTIV’s partner Journal de l’Environnement reports.

The United States has a booming trade in illegal ivory, second only to China. In recent months, New Jersey, New York, California and Hawaii, states with a particularly flourishing ivory trade, have already taken measures to restrict the sale of legal ivory, which provides a cover for the illegal trade.

Musicians and weapons enthusiasts

Due to enter into force on 6 July this year, the US restrictions on the ivory trade will constitute an almost total ban. A small number of products will remain unaffected by the new rules, including musical instruments and certain objects, including weapons, which contain no more than 200 grammes of ivory.

Antiques produced more than a century ago will also be unaffected by the ban.

These new measures, introduced as part of a 2013 decree aimed at fighting wildlife trafficking, also include a limit on imports of hunting trophies. US citizens will now be allowed to bring no more than two trophies per year into the country, whatever the species. No limit had previously existed.

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

A worry for collectors

While the news has been welcomed by environmental organisations, the reception elsewhere has been less enthusiastic, particularly from art collectors and ivory merchants. Anton Bruehl, who has written extensively on the subject, believes it will be very difficult to prove that an object is more than 100 years old, and that it can be sold.

Some 30,000 owners of ivory objects would suffer losses of $11.9 billion, Bruehl told the Washington Post. But the official estimate of the US Fish and Wildlife Service is for losses not exceeding $100 million.

In March this year, China also took measures to restrict the ivory trade, extending its import ban to products brought into circulation before 1975, the date when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) entered into force.

France has also hardened its stance: according to a ministerial decree due to be published in July this year, all trade in objects containing ivory or rhinoceros horn will be strictly prohibited, with the exception of products dating form before 1975.


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