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Elly Pepper’s Blog

NRDC Asks New York to Restrict its Ivory Trade

Elly Pepper

Posted January 16, 2014

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elephants entwined (photograph by Elly Pepper)

Seventy-two percent of elephants have been lost. An unprecedented amount of poaching is occurring in Africa. And preliminary indicators suggest that 2013 may have seen the highest levels of illicit ivory trade ever. Yet, despite the fact that elephants are being killed at such an alarming rate that they could be gone entirely within a decade, demand for ivory is booming.

While the general public seems to be aware of the huge role Chinese demand for elephant ivory plays in elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade, many don’t realize that the U.S. is the world’s second largest retail market for ivory and that New York is one of its epicenters.

That’s why I couldn’t be prouder of the New York Assembly’s effort to examine the effectiveness of its ivory laws today at a hearing held by the Environmental Conservation Committee. Hopefully, this is just the first step in a series of actions that will result in restrictions on New York’s ivory trade.

New York law prohibits the sale of elephant ivory unless the seller has been given a license by the Department of Environmental Conservation and the ivory is “pre-Act,” meaning that the seller possessed it prior to the species’ Endangered Species Act listing: 1976 for the Asian elephant and 1978 for the African elephant.

As NRDC told the Committee during today’s hearing, while New York law might appear stringent on its face, by allowing a legal ivory market it actually facilitates a large parallel illegal market focused mainly on small ivory figurines sold at gift and antique shops.

This has happened for three reasons. First, it’s extremely difficult to date ivory accurately, so sellers can simply falsify the date on which they obtained the ivory in their license applications to disguise ivory from recently killed elephants. Second, the law continues to allow other kinds of ivory, such as mammoth tusks, antique walrus. and whale teeth, to be sold. That means illegal sellers can also claim that elephant ivory comes from these other species instead. Finally, there are a number of sellers that simply operate without a license.

In short, New York clearly needs to revise its laws. The easiest way to crack down on the illegal sale of elephant ivory is to simply end the legal market, through either a ban or a moratorium. New York should also strengthen its implementation by providing increased funds for wildlife enforcement and increasing penalties for those who violate New York’s ivory laws, among other actions.

With 30,000 elephants being poached every year, there is no time left to waste. States, and the federal government need to act now to put a stop to this, and we’re counting on New York to lead the charge.

elephant family (photograph by Elly Pepper)

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Tricia BettonJan 17 2014 01:01 PM

Please discontinue they ivory trade from happening! It is the incumbent on all of us to take responsibility to conserve our the elephants so that our planet will enjoy them in the future!

ANn HaaserJan 17 2014 01:37 PM

Which generation shall we choose to have elephants become extinct, to be studied in history books only? Your children? Their children? Which do you choose? Does it matter to you?

Jacqueline AlessiJan 17 2014 01:42 PM

Elephants are beautiful and iconic animals in literature, nature and American Politics. The ivory trade must be eliminated if these creatures are to survive.

Camille BrownJan 17 2014 01:47 PM

If the U.S. wants to keep calling itself, The Greatest Nation," we must lead by example. There is no way we should be accepting this!

PattiJan 17 2014 02:15 PM

No one needs ivory. What kind of species are we to allow and cause another species to become extinct. Without balance, all we are doing is killing our planet and in turn, humans will disappear. Perhaps that would the best thing for the world after all. What is wrong with people? No ivory trade.

Marisa George Jan 17 2014 03:14 PM

Please support the elephants survival in their natural habitat. Please help! You can make a difference.

John FinazzoJan 17 2014 03:49 PM

In my opinion restricting the "Ivory Trade" should not be an acceptable option. There should be NO ivory trade under any circumstance. Allowing this under any special conditions will only contribute to the continued poaching today!!!

Neil IllianoJan 17 2014 06:53 PM

No Ivory sales allowed period, restricted Ivory sales will not slow down the slaughter; stop this senseless killing now.

jeanie TaveJan 17 2014 07:33 PM

Please protect Elephants..
No Ivory Trade..should be permitted ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD!!!!!!!

Victoria ByrdJan 18 2014 08:31 AM

Its shocking that this is still even up for discussion! ANY trade in ivory needs to stop! How can this even be questioned by civilized society?

Lois OlmsteadJan 18 2014 09:52 AM

Thank you NRDC for your testimony! I hope you will become involved in other aspects of the poaching crisis in Africa. It's estimated that 50,000 elephants were killed last year; their extinction in the wild is imminent. Rhinos are nearly gone altogether. Lions are in severe trouble as well. Please help!

Susan WellerJan 18 2014 12:57 PM

And we are supposed to civilized? This horror needs to stop NOW! Why is this still allowed? No more ivory trade anywhere !!!

Gail MagnerJan 18 2014 03:10 PM

There should be NO IVORY TRADE. This is despicable in 2014!!

PatriceJan 18 2014 03:24 PM

In this day and age there should be an amazing substitute that would be even better than natural bone and way cheaper! Media can sell ice to eskimos so some ad agency could surely spin this new substance to be more lucky or medicinal or whatever in order to satisfy the demand. Elephants need to be preserved. I am shocked the trade has expanded rather than been halted since 1978.

Linda SporsJan 18 2014 04:00 PM

I too am appalled that the ivory trade has expanded. Obviously making money takes precedence over conserving a magnificent species. Stop the ivory trade!

Barbara SadlerJan 18 2014 04:12 PM

Unbelievable that we are still dealing with this long after we thought the issue was settled in 1976 and 1978. Shame, shame on this country, or any country, for participating in this despicable trade. Let's put an end to it...NOW!!...before there are no more of these amazing and beautiful gentle giants.

carina acunaJan 18 2014 04:18 PM

please stop ivory trade altogether. such nonsense

Julia RussellJan 18 2014 04:26 PM

Unbelievable that we are still dealing with this long after we thought the issue was settled 35 years ago. Shame, shame on this country, or any country, for participating in this despicable trade. Let's put an end to it...NOW!!...before there are no more of these amazing and beautiful gentle giants.

Erin McGregorJan 18 2014 04:56 PM


antonio coelhoJan 18 2014 08:23 PM

i canĀ“t shoot an animal, but some people...i think i would

maryann SoehlJan 18 2014 09:38 PM

This is something that must stop. We are lossing all of our beautiful animals when will this stop now I hope please lets do the right thing.Thank you.

Lauren StoneJan 19 2014 04:20 AM

Absolutely horrible. This has got to stop.

Louise ReardonJan 19 2014 06:24 AM

Do most people not read? Or do they not care? I think there are many people who will not be happy until every animal is wiped out. The most horrible on earth are humans. Everything is about money and the innocent suffer because of it. Stop the killing of these beautiful animal.

Patricia WebsterJan 19 2014 08:09 AM

Can humans leave any animal alone to live in peace?

Mary Ellen BennettJan 19 2014 10:46 AM

Ban the sale of ivory completely. This is the only was to circumvent falsification and the perpetuation of sales.

Laurene HirschbergJan 19 2014 12:26 PM

Coveting objects is greed, hoarding symptoms of a damaged person, maybe an entire species. Cherishing wild animals, as they are, in the wild is love, which is the only way to start to heal ourselves and damage that we are doing to elephants & their families.

Lynette Borrelli-GlidewellJan 19 2014 04:11 PM

Ban ban ban!! More love and humane treatment, less monetary gain at the expense of a life!!

Hayley McMillenJan 19 2014 04:30 PM

Please stop the killing

eddy franklinJan 19 2014 04:53 PM

Elephants deserve the same dignity and care like we do - more must be done to stop this slaughter!

Mirella RothengatterJan 19 2014 05:15 PM

Stop this!!

Lana RoachJan 19 2014 08:17 PM

All sentient beings have a right to life. Stop the killing!

anonymousJan 19 2014 08:35 PM

NRDC-- please post what we can DO to help -- in addition to giving $$.

Greg VolkJan 19 2014 10:44 PM

They can't speak for themselves, so we need to speak for them

Louann LanningJan 20 2014 12:51 AM

I can't believe the U.S. is a part of this in 2014. The only reason the ivory trade continues is people's greed. It is unconscionable to push a species to extinction. STOP the IVORY TRADE NOW!

Latifa LiptonJan 20 2014 02:35 PM

72% of these amazing intelligent animals have been lost! Please stop the ivory trade!!! I can't believe the USA is involved in pushing these animals to extinction. Shocking!

Jonathan GottliebJan 25 2014 10:29 PM

Why don't people stop buying Ivory period. It also should not be allowed to be sold in the US at all. Just makes me sick!

Cindy WinesJan 26 2014 11:00 AM

This is ridiculous that we allow the sale of ivory in New York and this is a hub for sales worldwide. What is wrong with us? We must stop it here at home!! Shame on Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill DeBlasio (who is new on the job) but they must initiate laws to ban the sale of ivory in New York. If they watched an elephant or family get destroyed and watch them hack out their tusks while the babies watched, they would stop this NOW.

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