The ivory trade continues to thrive and is certainly having an impact on the global elephant population. San Francisco is actually the second leading city in the United States for ivory imports, according to San Francisco SPCA’s Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, who adds that 35,000 elephants are killed a year – about one every 15 minutes.
“At this pace the African-American elephant will be gone in about five years,” she said. Scarlett reminds that California passed a law decades ago prohibiting the sale of elephant parts, but she says there’s a massive loophole. “If they came into the country before 1977 they can still be sold and there’s no way to date ivory.”
Existing law exempts the possession with intent to sell, or sale of the dead body, or any part or product thereof, of any elephant before June 1, 1977, or the possession with intent to sell or the sale of any such item on or after June 1, 1977, if the item was imported before January 1, 1977.
Typically when you think about ivory you envision an elephant’s tusks, but there’s a little more to it. Rhinoceros are also part of the illegal animal trade. About 1,000 rhinos are poached every year for their horns, according to Scarlett, leaving less than 30,000 in the wild.
Scarlett speaks optimistically when she says there is current legislation at play surrounding the ivory trade in California. AB 96 has been moving through the California State Assembly and would strengthen California’s ban on illegal ivory and offer protection to the rhinos. In addition it would eliminate the exemption from previously existing law and designate responsibility for enforcement to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
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