Exotic Wildlife Trafficking
Illegal ivory trafficking is an escalating global issue. Elephants and rhinos may soon be driven to extinction by poaching. The demand for elephant ivory and rhino horn, driven by China, Japan, the Philippines, the United States and other countries, has created a massive international market that can have detrimental economic, social and environmental effects.
Poaching is now a sophisticated international crime racket and a national security threat. Terrorist organizations such as al-Shabaab in Somalia, the Janjaweed militia in Sudan and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda obtain millions from ivory trafficking and use it to finance their attacks on Americans and others. Approximately 35,000 elephants are killed annually, close to 100 elephants every day. At this rate elephants will be extinct in a few decades.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended instituting a near ban on the domestic ivory trade, and placed a moratorium on ivory importation. A host of states that have significant ivory markets or are concerned about the poaching crisis have enacted or are contemplating a ban on the ivory and rhino horn trades in their jurisdictions.
1) Over 100,000 elephants were poached from 2010 to 2012. It is estimated that there are about 500,000 African elephants left in the wild. (National Academy of Sciences)
2) Rhinos are on the brink of extinction. There are only 28,000 rhinos left globally, and 20,000 of these are the Southern white rhino. There are only 8,000 of the other four species of rhinos combined.
3) Wildlife poaching is worth $8-10 billion per year, and ranks only behind narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking in international crime activities.
4) The U.S. is the world’s second largest consumer of ivory behind China. One-third of ivory sold in the U.S. was recently carved, and thus was illegally imported from recently poached elephants. (HSUS)
- In 2014, New Jersey and New York became the first states to ban sales of ivory and rhino horn products. California and Washington enacted similar laws in 2015, followed by Hawaii and Oregon in 2016.
- Currently 6 states are considering bills to address wildlife trafficking.
- Some state bills include exceptions to the ban on the sale of ivory, including antique ivory not less than 100 years old and held by permit and/or inheritance.
- HB 2176 — Ivory or rhinoceros horn permits; definitions
- HB 16-1341 — Concerning protecting animal species threatened with extinction by prohibiting trafficking
- HB 5578 — An act prohibiting the sale and trade of ivory and rhinoceros horn
- SB 156 — An act to amend Title 7 of the Delaware Code relating to the import, sale, purchase, trade, barter, or possession of ivory and rhinoceros horn
District of Columbia
- DC B21-251 — Prohibits the import, sale, purchase, barter, or possession with intent to sell ivory and rhinoceros horns in the District.
- SB 1858 — Provides that it shall be unlawful for any person to import, sell, offer for sale, purchase, barter, or possess with intent to sell, any ivory, ivory product, rhinoceros horn, or rhinoceros horn product
- HF 2204 — An Act prohibiting the sale of ivory and rhinoceros horn with certain, providing penalties, and including effective date provisions.
- SR 101 — Resolution supporting the federal government’s proposed rule changes that would restrict the sale of African ivory across state lines
- HB 1052 — Ban on ivory and rhino horn sales
- HB 542 — Prohibiting a person from purchasing, selling, offering for sale, or possessing with the intent to sell specified parts or products of specified animal species
- SB 991 — For the purpose of prohibiting a person from purchasing, selling, offering for sale, or possessing with the intent to sell certain parts or products of certain animal species
- H 1275 — Prohibiting the import, sale, purchase, barter, or possession with intent to sell, of any ivory, ivory product, rhinoceros horn, or rhinoceros horn product.
- A 4773 — Prohibiting transport or possession of “Big 5” African species through Port Authority
- AB 8394 — An act prohibiting the possession and transport of certain animals and
body parts thereof at airports and port facilities owned or operated
by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
- AB 6071 — Relates to musical instruments containing ivory or rhinoceros horn
- HB 1537 –Prohibiting the import, sale, purchase, barter
or possession of ivory or rhinoceros horn
- H 7669 — Sale of ivory or rhinoceros horns
- H 297 — Prohibit the import, sale, offer for sale, purchase, barter, or possession with intent to sell of
any ivory, ivory product, rhinoceros horn, or rhinoceros horn product
- Initiative 1401, funding for — I-1401 passed in Nov. 2015 to restrict endangered species product; 2016 Governor’s Supplemental Budget contains $500,000 for enforcement
- SB 728 — Relating to the sale and purchase of products containing ivory or rhinoceros horn and providing a criminal penalty
To download a complete list of bills and their current status as of 3.15.16, click here.
Science and Reports
- The Illegal Wildlife Trade: Case Study of the UK, Norway, Colombia and Brazil — European Union Action to Fight Environmental Crime, 2015
This report identifies common and different features of the international wildlife trade in these four locations, exploring the various motivations for why people engage in the trade, the nature of the trade and types of victimisation. An overview of the response to the trade is discussed and evaluated through SWOT analysis – identifying strengths and weaknesses, and proposing suggestions for improvements. The full report is available here.
- Fighting Illicit Wildlife Trafficking: a Consultation with Governments — Dalberg and World Wildlife Fund, 2013
This report summarizes the views of a number of governments and international organizations on illicit wildlife trafficking. It reveals that the current global approach is failing, and that the illegal wildlife trade is worth $19 billion annually. The full report is available here.
IFAW’s investigation took place simultaneously in 16 countries over a six week period, recording the trade in protected wildlife over online marketplaces – looking at both live wild animals and their derivative parts and products – of CITES Appendix I species. Ivory and suspected ivory posts made up nearly one-third of all traded items found in this study. The investigators also lay out the frequency of endangered wildlife trading and potential solutions for addressing the problem. The full report is available here.
Download the NCEL Fact Sheet with key facts and links to legislation here.
Download the briefing book with a concise fact sheet, a FAQ, and comparisons of state legislative provisions here.
The National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking establishes guiding principles and strategic
priorities for U.S. efforts to stem illegal trade in wildlife. The full strategy is detailed here.
CITES is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. More information about CITES is available here.
Saving Animals From Extinction focuses on wildlife conservation worldwide, and are currently working to pass Initiative 1401 in Washington State. 1401 would prohibit the purchase, sale and distribution of most endangered species products. Learn more about the organization here.
Recent News Stories
The last week has seen major national and international developments to address wildlife trafficking, and states are positioned to take even stronger action. On September 21, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the END Wildlife Trafficking Act (HR 2494). The bill addresses global poaching and illegal trafficking of elephant ivory by identifying nations that […]
This session, the Colorado State Legislature passed a bill to establish a public lands day in the state. The bill was sponsored by State Senator Kerry Donovan, and passed on May 11, 2016. Recent years have seen increased pressure from anti-environmental groups to force a shift of ownership or control of public lands from the […]
In the U.S., up to 1.5 million wildlife/vehicle accidents occur every year, resulting in over 200 human deaths, 29,000 human injuries, and $4.8 billion in insurance industry losses. This session, the New Hampshire State Legislature passed a bill to study to identify and report on existing and needed wildlife corridors and wildlife crossings across highways […]
Voters in Washington state banned ivory sales as well as products from ten endangered species when they passed the Washington Animal Trafficking Initiative 1401 (I-1401) last month. The ballot measures means Washington now joins California, New Jersey and New York as the only states that have restrictions on the trade of exotic wildlife parts such […]
Thanks to a generous renewal grant from the Woodtiger Fund, NCEL is able to once again publish bimonthly briefings on conservation issues.
Over 200 State Legislators Call on President Obama for Continued Action to Protect America’s Public Lands
BRIEFING Cons Law and Policy 11th 12.13 fnl
Conservation Briefing – June-July 2013
FebMar 2013 Conservation Briefing
September – November 2012 Conservation Issue Briefing