Victory! Governor signs California ivory ban bill into law



Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 96, which will restrict the trade of ivory and rhino horn in California. This critical piece of legislation, spearheaded by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Senator Ricardo Lara, closes loopholes that had allowed the illegal ivory trade to continue nearly unhindered in the state.

IFAW worked with a broad coalition of conservation and animal welfare groups to help push the bill forward. Our California members were especially critical to the bill’s passage, letting their legislators know through calls, emails, and social media that the ivory and horn trade is a serious threat to elephants and rhinos and needs to be stopped.

READ: California Senate passes state ivory ban

This illicit trade is the main culprit for unprecedented levels of elephant and rhino poaching. Demand for these products has skyrocketed in the last few years, and the species are feeling the pressure. Scientists say that if current trends continue, regional extinction is a very real possibility. Upwards of 35,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory tusks (which is around one every 15 minutes), while about 1,000 rhinos are now killed for their horns annually.

The only way we can stop the slaughter is to ban trade in these products everywhere we can, closing loopholes once and for all. In California, broad exceptions had allowed sales of antiques and “pre-ban” ivory (that pre-dated 1977), making enforcement virtually impossible. Vendors could easily claim that their products were antique, and some even went so far as to physically stain them to make them look older. The new law will end this loophole by eliminating the “pre-ban” exemption and strictly limiting sales.

Given that California is one of the largest commercial markets in the U.S. for illegal ivory, this law will have an impact far beyond the state’s borders and will be an important piece to the puzzle in ending the brutal massacre of elephants and rhinos abroad.  Furthermore, it may well serve as a catalyst for other states, the federal government, and perhaps even other consumer nations to follow suit.

California now joins New York and New Jersey in passing ivory bans. Momentum is building throughout the U.S. as several others states already have bills or ballot initiatives in play to close down ivory and rhino horn markets. Meanwhile, the federal government has recently proposed stronger federal regulations that would close several loopholes at the interstate and import/export level (find out how to support these new regulations here). 

IFAW is working with legislators, concerned citizens, and other NGO’s to help implement these measures, because ivory and horn trade anywhere is a threat to elephants and rhinos everywhere.



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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
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Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
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