6 min read

Obama Bans U.S. Ivory Trade, Reveals “Milestone” Wildlife Plan

President Obama and the White House released their National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking on Tuesday, outlining its strategies to stop trafficking and also introducing a stricter ban on ivory trade in the country. In the document's opening statement, President Obama writes:

Like other forms of illicit trade, wildlife trafficking undermines security across nations. Well-armed, well-equipped, and well-organized networks of criminals and corrupt officials exploit porous borders and weak institutions to profit from trading in poached wildlife. Record high demand for wildlife products, coupled with inadequate preventative measures and weak institutions has resulted in an explosion of illicit trade in wildlife in recent years.

In a press release, the administration announced that the strategy will "strengthen U.S. leadership on addressing the serious and urgent conservation and global security threat posed by illegal trade in wildlife." The plan has three prongs -- strengthening law enforcement, reducing demand for wildlife products and expanding international cooperation with other governments and organizations to combat wildlife trafficking.

Also included in the plan is a ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory that will prohibit commercial imports, exports and -- importantly -- domestic sale of ivory with a limited number of exceptions. While importing ivory was already banned, now a domestic ban will prevent sellers inside the country who often use channels like eBay to sell ivory and are largely unregulated. Though importing and exporting ivory will be banned, this doesn't apply to antique ivory, which must be at least 100 years old.

The document also notes that the number of African elephants that an individual can import will now be limited to two per hunter per year.

Conservationists from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) praised the measure as a big step in the right direction. WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts, a member of President Obama's Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, said in a release:

"Today marks a significant milestone in the global fight against wildlife crime. President Obama has elevated illegal wildlife trafficking to a priority issue for more than a dozen federal agencies, reflecting the fact that it has grown into one of the most profitable criminal industries in the world, estimated at $10 billion annually. Today's action confirms the administration's commitment to scale up solutions to match the problem.

The move is bolstered by Congress' recent approval of $45 million in funding to combat illegal wildlife trafficking. Though the U.S. is the world's second-largest market for wildlife products, WWF said that Obama's plan sends "an unequivocal message to the rest of the world."

ACTION ALERT: Wildlife Trafficking

Every year, wildlife traders reap a collective $10 billion to $20 billion in profits from poaching and trading products like rhino horn, ivory, alligator skin, tiger paws, eggs, bushmeat, live animals used as pets, and much more -- not to mention illegal live animal sales. HSI has developed this guide to help avoid buying products made from this illicit trade. Born Free USA has this helpful state-by-state guide on which animals are illegal to own (many because they are illegally obtained). For more information, or to become more involved in this issue: WWF's anti-trafficking campaigns, Save The Rhino, and Traffic.