NAIROBI, Kenya, July 26, 2015 (ENS) – President Barack Obama is proposing to forbid the sale of “virtually all ivory across state lines” in the United States.

During his first visit as president to his father’s homeland of Kenya, Obama told reporters Saturday he will restrict the U.S. trade in elephant ivory to protect Africa’s elephants, which are targeted by poachers for sale on the black market.

Obama announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to prohibit most interstate commerce in African elephant ivory and further restrict commercial exports. This action, combined with other actions the Obama Administration has already taken, will result in a near total ban on the domestic commercial trade of African elephant ivory.

Obama, Kenyatta

President Barack Obama, left, and President Uhuru Kenyatta, Nairobi, July 25, 2015 (Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy in Nairobi)

At a news conference with Kenyan President Kenyatta at the State House, Obama said, “Our countries are also close partners in the fight against poachers and traffickers that threaten Kenya’s world-famous wildlife. The United States has a ban already on the commercial import of elephant ivory. I can announce that we’re proposing a new rule that bans the sale of virtually all ivory across our state lines, which will eliminate the market for illegal ivory in the United States.”

The proposed rule builds upon restrictions put in place last year following President Obama’s Executive Order on combating wildlife trafficking. Yet despite existing regulations, the United States is the world’s second-largest market for ivory, behind China.

Poachers currently kill, on average, one elephant every 15 minutes to supply the global black market, threatening the African elephant with extinction.

“The United States is among the world’s largest consumers of wildlife, both legal and illegal,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “We want to ensure our nation is not contributing to the scourge of poaching that is decimating elephant populations across Africa.”

An estimated 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory between 2010 and 2012. The carcasses of illegally killed elephants now litter some of Africa’s premiere parks. Elephants are under threat even in areas that were once thought to be safe havens.

As stated in the President’s July 2013 Executive Order, wildlife trafficking reduces the economic, social and environmental benefits of wildlife while generating billions of dollars in illicit revenues each year, contributing to an illegal economy, fueling instability and undermining security.

The proposed revisions to the African elephant rule under the Endangered Species Act would prohibit most interstate commerce in African elephant ivory and would further restrict commercial exports.

During the last year, the Fish and Wildlife Service consulted extensively with groups that may be impacted by new trade controls for ivory, including professional musicians, antique dealers and collectors, and museum curators.

Based on consideration of the input from those groups and others, the proposed rule allows specific, limited exceptions for certain pre-existing manufactured items such as musical instruments, furniture pieces, and firearms that contain less than 200 grams of ivory. Antiques, as defined by law, are also exempt from its prohibitions.

The Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes that legal trade in these items does not contribute to the current poaching crisis.


A few of the elephant tusks in Kenya’s stockpile of confiscated ivory (Photo courtesy Kenya Wildlife Service)

“We listened carefully to concerns raised by various stakeholder groups and have developed a proposed rule that will allow continued trade in certain items containing ivory that meet very specific criteria,” Ashe said.

Kenya has begun the annual process of compiling her national stockpiles of elephant ivory and rhino horn in an exercise that was officially launched by the Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources Professor Judi Wakhungu on July 21 at Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters in Nairobi.

Required by law, officials taking an inventory of all ivory and rhino horn stockpiles in the country, including court exhibits and any other that might be held by other agencies by virtue of their legal mandate such as the judiciary, police, Customs, and wildlife conservancies among others.

” I am happy to note that this is the first time these high value trophy stockpiles will be digitally inventoried in one go and shall form the basis for future national audits in fulfilment of the provisions of the Wildlife Act and reporting to the CITES Convention,” said Wakhungu.

The inventory is being undertaken using digital technology that has been tested and successfully applied in other African elephant range States. KWS has partnered with Stop Ivory, a UK-based NGO to support the 45 day exercise by offering technical and financial support. Members of the inventory teams have been drawn from KWS and Stop Ivory with support from university students.

The exercise involves collection of elephant ivory and rhino horn samples, which will be used to create a DNA reference library for profiling the national populations of elephants and rhinos. The DNA library will be a central component in analysis of forensic evidence for use in prosecution of wildlife crime not only in Kenya but also in the region.

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