In a historic move, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service will finally enact a near-total ban on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory that aggressively expands previous restrictions on the trade, with the aim of reducing the ruthless and widespread poaching of African elephants that has pushed their dwindling population towards extinction.

From the New York Times:

Under current guidelines, ivory can be sold if it was brought into the United States before it was listed as endangered or if the elephant died of natural causes, as long as there is documentation. The new rules will restrict those sales to genuine antiques, like ivory statues, artwork or chiseled chess pieces, that have been lawfully imported, as well as items like musical instruments that were made using less than 200 grams of ivory.

According to Daniel M. Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, “That large fog of legal trade that has been concealing the illegal trade of ivory that continues to this day” will no longer exist, robbing traffickers of opportunities to disguise illegal ivory as legal.

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The United States is the second-largest consumer of illegally poached ivory next to China, where the Times reports a U.S. delegation will travel to Beijing for a round of talks with Chinese officials. Amid mounting international pressure, China has indicated willingness to impose similar restrictions.

Approximately 96 African elephants—whose vast intelligence and complex emotional lives, it should be noted, we are only beginning to comprehend—are slaughtered per day by poachers, whose tusks are then trafficked across Asia and the Americas in a trade that also funds terrorist groups; today, there are less than 500,000 African elephants left in the wild.

“Since we proposed this rule in 2015, we received more than 1.3 million comments from the public, demonstrating that Americans care deeply about elephants and overwhelmingly support African elephant conservation,” Ashe said in a statement. “We still have much to do to save this species, but today is a good day for the African elephant.”


Image via Associated Press.