There could be as few as half a million elephants left in the wild – roughly the population of Long Beach, California. But their numbers are still dropping rapidly due to the illegal ivory trade.
Thankfully the Obama administration’s new federal rule makes illegal ivory in the U.S. much harder, reports Mashable. As the third most populous country on earth, any decision made by the US carries serious weight and has the power to steer markets and opinions across the globe.
Under the Endangered Species Act the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have brought in a near-total ban on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory. With the aim of crippling the trade that decimates the severely endangered animals population.
Under the regulation you can still trade in legally imported antiques over 100-years-old. Certain items such as instruments and firearms (because America) that have less than 200 grams of ivory are also allowed.
Previously ivory could be traded if it had been imported before 1978, the date when African elephants were listed as endangered. You could also trade ivory from elephants that died of natural causes provided you had the correct documentation.
However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally admitted that it is basically impossible to tell illegal and legal ivory apart – making their job really hard. The new rule’s clearer guidelines will mean federal agents can take more illegal ivory out of circulation.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said:
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. 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.
Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 African elephants were illegally poached for ivory. One elephant died every 15 minutes for no reason other than human hunting.
The new rule brings U.S. rules into line with China and several African nations, who’ve brought in similar laws to battle illegal poaching and trading.
We just hope it isn’t too little too late. They say elephants never forget, but our future generations will remember us forever if we fail to take action and allow these beautiful animals to be hunted into extinction.