File photo of raw ivory tusks. © TRAFFIC

File photo of raw ivory tusks. © TRAFFIC


Published 3 June 2016


US announces tough new ivory trade regulations

Washington DC, USA, 3rd June 2016—new regulations on the domestic trade in ivory were yesterday finalized by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The regulations add prohibitions to certain elements of the commercial ivory trade to implement a “near total ban” on domestic ivory trade.

There will be some limited exceptions, e.g. for musical instruments meeting strict criteria1, but all commercial exports and sales of ivory between US States will only be allowed for proven antiques more than 100 years old and even within States, sales will only be allowed that can be proven by the seller to pre-date the ban on ivory trade under CITES that came into force in 1990. Already, regulations are in place that prevent commercial imports of ivory and trade in raw ivory. 

CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an agreement between more than 180 countries, which has strict laws governing the import and export of ivory. 

The measures aim to tighten up the current US domestic legislation which was regarded as unenforceable on domestic sales of ivory products because little can be done without direct evidence of illegal importation. 

The latest move is symbolic of the US Government’s resolve to prevent the ongoing poaching of elephants and other iconic animals and address international wildlife crime. 

As many as 30,000 African Elephants are killed each year across Africa to feed a lucrative, global black market for ivory.

“By introducing these tough new laws, the US Government is demonstrating its firm leadership, commitment and resolve to be at the forefront of international efforts to address wildlife crime and help protect elephants,” said Crawford Allan, TRAFFIC’s Senior Director on Wildlife Crime and a member of the US Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. 

The new rules were announced shortly ahead of a US–China dialogue on sustainable economics in Beijing. In 2015, the two countries agreed to co-operate closely on addressing ivory trade, with both agreeing to a “near total ban” on their respective domestic markets. 

1, the final rule prohibits most commerce in ivory but makes specific, limited exceptions for certain pre-existing manufactured items—such as musical instruments, furniture pieces and firearms—that contain less than 200 grams of ivory and meet other specific criteria. Antiques, as defined under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA), are also exempt from the act’s prohibitions. This rule is limited to African Elephant ivory and does not further regulate ivory derived from other species, such as walrus, whale and mammoth.