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Ivory trade: a win and a setback.

In June, as part of an ongoing effort to prevent elephant poaching, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced a near-total ban on the ivory trade, a move that will make it much harder to buy and sell ivory in the United States.

While ivory imports have been banned in this country since 1990, under previous regulations ivory that had been brought into the US prior to 1976--the year that African elephants were first listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES--to still be freely traded within US borders.

Under the new rules, which took effect in July, interstate sales are restricted to antiques that are more than 100 years old, and to products containing small amounts of ivory, such as musical instruments. The new rules come at a time when the African elephant is in the midst of a poaching crisis--some 30,000 elephants continue to be killed every year for their tusks--and wildlife conservationists worry that within a decade or so there will be no African elephants left in the wild.

The ban marks another step toward fulfilling President Obama's 2013 executive order on combating wildlife trafficking. But, as is often the case, the devil is in the details. This still isn't a total ban on all ivory trade, which some conservationists say is what's really required to protect the elephants. According to National Geographic, intrastate ivory sales will still be legal. Ivory donations, or gifts, across state lines will be permitted. And hunters will still be allowed to import ivory trophies, though the new rules restrict imports to two trophies per hunter, per year. Such imports were previously unrestricted.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the European commission announced in July that it opposes a total ban on the global ivory trade, instead endorsing sustainable management of African elephant populations in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana, where elephant populations are growing. African wildlife officials were shocked by the announcement, and fear that the EU will derail listing of the African elephant under Appendix I of CITES--which lists species threatened with extinction. A coalition of 29 African nations have been pushing hard for an Annex I listing for all African elephants, a designation that would outlaw the international ivory trade.

Andrew Seguya, director of Uganda's Wildlife Authority, put it bluntly when speaking with The Guardian: "If the EU prevents an Annex I listing, it will be the beginning of the extinction of the African elephant for sure."

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Title Annotation:UPDATE
Publication:Earth Island Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 21, 2016
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