“Ivory is beautiful, but the only place it belongs is on elephants.”
Above: Elephant family in Amboseli, Kenya. Increasing demand for elephant ivory, rhino horn and polar bear skins is driving the slaughter of imperiled animals for the sake of profit.
NRDC is on the front lines of the battle to change that. Recently, the Obama Administration proposed new rules that would effectively close the loopholes in the current law and impose a full ban on all imports of commercial ivory, no matter what the ivory’s purported age. The potential of these tough new safeguards to eliminate the ivory trade in the United States has aroused stringent opposition among a disparate but well-connected coalition, including high-end auction houses, art dealers and even the National Rifle Association (ivory is often used as a decorative inlay on expensive firearms). “These are businesses that profit from the status quo,” says
Pepper. “Of course they don’t want the law to change. But until the U.S. takes meaningful action to stop the ivory trade here at home, we lack the moral authority to press for change around the world. In the meantime, we’re fast nearing the point where there’s no turning back — the elephants could be gone.”
Left: Tons of seized ivory were crushed last year in Colorado, part of a new federal effort to crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking. Above: Sample of the six tons of ivory confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since the late 1980s.
To counter the few narrow special interests that would keep the ivory trade alive, NRDC is raising public awareness about the disastrous toll poaching is taking on African elephants and channeling that concern into
an outpouring of support for new federal protections. At the same time, we’re urging the Obama Admini stration to stand strong for elephants in the face of political opposition. In New York, California and Hawaii, the three states that account for 70 percent of ivory trafficking in this country, we’re working to advance state legislation or other safeguards that would strengthen the enforcement of an ivory trade ban by stopping intrastate sales. In Europe we’re helping to tighten wildlife trade laws that contain loopholes for traffickers, and in China our U.S. legal experts are sharing their firsthand experience with counterparts in NRDC’s Beijing office as they map a strategy for strengthening that country’s wildlife conservation laws as well. “Every trinket, every ring or necklace, every inlaid box or picture frame — every piece of ivory comes from a dead animal,” says Pepper. “Ivory is beautiful, but the only place it belongs is on elephants.” Take action at: www.nrdc.org/ivory 5