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WCS Applauds Historic, Groundbreaking US Ivory Ban

Mary Dixon, 347-840-1242 ;
Chip Weiskotten, 202-347-0672 ext. 25;
Stephen Sautner, 718-220-3682;

WASHINGTON (June 2, 2016) The following statement was released by Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO and a member of the U.S. President’s Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking:

“The world knows that the very survival of elephants is imperiled by the ivory trade.

The USA is shutting down the bloody ivory market that is wiping out Africa’s elephants. The USA is boldly saying to ivory poachers: You are officially out of business.

Today, the Obama Administration followed through on a promise, called for by African heads of state at the Clinton Global Initiative, and more recently by the Elephant Protection Initiative, and made by the president himself in Kenya in 2013, to do what we can in the United States to confront this threat to African elephants by banning ivory.

This US ban on ivory sales, along with the commitment of a ban in China and several African nations, shows how two influential nations can join together to ensure a future for wild elephants. If these actions of the US and China are repeated by all nations, we could reverse the decline of elephants.

Illegal ivory hides behind ‘legal’ ivory, and the US is one of the largest markets for ivory in the world. Our scientists have found conclusive evidence that the only way to save elephants is to ban ivory sales. This is a wonderful day for those who care about saving this amazing species.

Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 elephants were illegally killed for their ivory across the African continent—an average of 96 elephants per day or one every 15 minutes. And, between 2002 and 2013, central Africa’s forest elephant population declined by two-thirds, with heavy poaching continuing to this day. At this rate, forest elephants could be extinct in the wild within a decade.

WCS has continually brought attention to the plight of African elephants, through the awareness-raising 96 Elephants campaign; advocacy for state ivory bans in New York, New Jersey, California and others; and its role in the Times Square ivory crush in 2015.

The US ivory ban is a key component of the US National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking and stopping the criminal syndicates who traffic in ivory. The American people have spoken loudly on this issue, based on the hundreds of thousands of letters sent to the US Congress through the 96 Elephants campaign as well as the 1.3 million comments submitted on this proposed rule, that this should be a priority for our federal government.

Several African countries and the US have presented draft resolutions for consideration at the 2016 meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) which call on all nations to close their domestic ivory markets. With this final rule, the US is well placed to work with African governments to see those resolutions adopted.

WCS applauds this action by the US government and stands ready to continue educating the US public about the plight of the world’s elephants through campaign engagement, our field and policy conservation work across the globe, and in our zoos.

Actions like today spark hope that we can re-write the story of species facing multiple threats. We have many examples of how our concerted actions can lead to better news for threatened wildlife.

In Tanzania’s Tarangire ecosystem, for one example,  WCS has been studying the elephant population for over 20 years. Here WCS has worked with communities to protect elephant dispersal areas and migration corridors, hired community game scouts to patrol outside the park and provided anti-poaching vehicles. For many years the population of elephants in Tarangire NP has been among the fastest growing in Africa, a testament to how elephants can increase when provided with good protection.  

As we celebrate today’s announcement, we must never forget that we must stop the killing, stop the trafficking and stop the demand.”