The Washington DC Council just banned the sale of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. By making ivory and rhino horn sales illegal, the DC Council is reducing demand for wildlife trafficking and the illegal ivory trade.
The Elephant Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Trafficking Prohibition Act is significant to “the rapidly dwindling elephant and rhinoceros populations,” DC Voters For Animals (DCVFA) said in a press release. “Wildlife poaching has put these animals in jeopardy. Yet, ivory and rhino horn are still legal in DC.”
The federal government prohibits importing goods from endangered animals, however, these policies do not regulate commerce within a state. Many other cities and states across the U.S. independently banned ivory and rhino horn sales. But this also contributed to DC’s booming ivory market. The new ivory ban will help mitigate demand.
“Most people expect that ivory and rhino horn sales have already been done away with,” said Max Broad, founder of DCFVA. “This law puts that expectation into place, clamping down the goods that are driving the demise of the precious species.”
Councilmember Mary Cheh, the new bill’s lead champion, first proposed a sales ban in 2015. In 2019, The Humane Society of the United States conducted an undercover investigation exposing the scale of ivory sales in DC. ElephantsDC, DC Environment Network, A Vegan Life, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Sierra Club DC also support the bill.
The bill now goes on to Mayor Muriel Bowser to be signed into law.
Wildlife Trafficking and Poaching
In Africa and Asia, illegal poaching has pushed elephants and rhinos to near extinction. According to The Humane Society of the United States, elephant populations have dropped by nearly 150,000 since 2007. The U.S. is one of the largest markets for illegal ivory.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 1,000 shipments of ivory—more than 12,000 items—came through Chicago’s ports between 2010 and 2015. Along with local anti-poaching groups, bans can help reduce demand for ivory and rhino horn.
In 2018, Illinois became the ninth state to ban the trade and sale of ivory and rhino horn in the U.S. Also in 2018, the UK implemented one of the world’s most restrictive ivory bans—one that may also protect hippos, walruses, and narwhals. In late 2019, Japan banned the sale of ivory, while neighboring China is also attempting to close its domestic ivory market.