While many people think of Asian countries like China and Vietnam as the major buyers of elephant ivory, the U.S. is right up there with them. Long held as a market for the illegal trade, U.S. markets in New York City and San Francisco dominate, contributing to the massive crisis for the world's elephants.
Now, one California lawmaker is trying to remove her state from that list with a new, more complete ban on the ivory trade. Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) introduced a bill called AB 96 on Thursday that would close loopholes that prevent the enforcement of an existing law that bans the sale of ivory.
The existing law, enacted in 1977, prohibits the purchase, sale and import of elephant ivory and rhino horn. But older ivory - that which was sold before 1977 - isn't covered under this ban. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, this ban is imperfect; several ivory owners have been caught with ivory from newly-slaughtered elephants that was rubbed with varnish to make it appear older. Only carbon dating and DNA testing can prove a piece's age, but the tests are expensive and impractical.