Washington, D.C., Passes Law To Ban The Sale Of Ivory & Rhino Horn; Bill Moves To Congress For Final Approval

The District of Columbia has passed a law to address the surging local market for goods that contribute to declines in endangered wildlife called the Elephant Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Trafficking Prohibition Act, which bans the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn in the District. The law was approved by Mayor Muriel Bowser last week. The bill now goes to Congress for final approval.

Poaching and trafficking of wildlife products has put elephant and rhino populations, which are already under intense ecological pressure, in even more severe jeopardy. Yet, until now, ivory and rhino horn sales were still legal within D.C.

Although the federal government has implemented restrictions on ivory imports and interstate sales, these regulations do not address commerce within a state. Cities and states across the United States have consequently banned ivory and rhino horn sales to fill gaps in federal policy. However, these policies have condensed ivory markets to places where the trade is still legal, such as the nation’s capital.

“I am heartened to finally witness the success of this bill which sends the strong message that Washingtonians are taking a stand against the destructive ivory market,” Councilmember Mary Cheh of Ward 3 who first sponsored legislation for this ban in 2015, said in a statement. “Ivory dealers will no longer be able to take advantage of the lack of local laws banning the sale of ivory, and our law will help reverse the devastating decline in wild elephant and rhino populations across the globe.”

A coalition of animal protection organizations advocated for the passage of this bill including: the Animal Welfare Institute, the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, and DC Voters for Animals.

“Mayor Bowser and the D.C. Council have taken a meaningful step towards helping to save elephants and rhinos by prohibiting the sale of their tusks and horns in the nation’s capital,” said Cathy Liss, President of Animal Welfare Institute. “Bans like this reduce the market for these items, thereby minimizing the role the United States plays in the devastating poaching and wildlife trafficking crisis.”

The Humane Society of the United States conducted an undercover investigation in 2019 that revealed the alarming extent of ivory sales throughout the District. Investigators found dozens of ivory items for sale, ranging from small ivory figurines to a full carved elephant tusk.

“During the course of our undercover investigation, it was shocking to come across a full elephant tusk worth $600,000, along with multiple items worth tens of thousands of dollars,” said Molly Armus of the Humane Society of the United States.

“Most people expect that ivory and rhino horn sales have already been done away with,” stated Max Broad, Founder of D.C. Voters for Animals. “This law puts that expectation into place, clamping down on the goods that are driving the demise of these precious species.”

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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